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Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro, Wonder Weight Loss Drugs? Trend Causes Shortage

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It might be surprising, but Ozempic (semaglutide), which is a diabetes medication, is getting a lot of attention on social media thanks to one of its side effects: weight loss. On platforms like TikTok, hashtags like #ozempic and #ozempicweightloss have gathered over 300 million views, with many people sharing their significant weight loss experiences. Even celebrities like Khloe and Kim Kardashian are rumored to be using Ozempic pens to slim down and rock trendy ’90s fashion like micro-minis and crop tops. These rumors, fueled by tabloids and magazines, are making more people curious about this diabetes drug.

However, this growing popularity has led to a shortage of Ozempic and its sister drug, Wegovy, which are both forms of semaglutide, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Another diabetes drug, Mounjaro (tirzepatide), is also hard to come by. The manufacturer, Lilly, is trying to ramp up production. With tirzepatide recently approved for weight loss under the name Zepbound, people with diabetes are worried about potential shortages. So, what can you do if you’re taking these medications and suddenly can’t find them? Let’s explore some options for people with diabetes and obesity who rely on these drugs.

What is Ozempic (Semaglutide)?

Ozempic, also known by its scientific name semaglutide, is a drug prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes to help control their blood sugar levels. Interestingly, it also has a side effect of helping in weight loss. Because of this, it’s marketed and sold under the name Wegovy for treating obesity and at higher doses than Ozempic.

What is the Cause of Ozempic Shortage?

Now, here’s where things get a bit tricky. Some experts believe that the current shortage of these medications might be caused by individuals who don’t actually have obesity or diabetes. Dr. Beverly Tchang, assistant professor and an endocrinologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Presbyterian Hospital, shares her concern: “I worry more that folks who do not have diabetes or obesity are buying semaglutide at its out-of-pocket cost to get skinnier, likely stirred on by TikTok videos or Variety articles.” It’s an interesting twist to the story, isn’t it?

She further added, “Patients with diabetes and patients with obesity both deserve treatment, and the shortage of semaglutide in general affects both populations.” With the current shortage, people looking to lose weight might be more inclined to choose Ozempic over Wegovy. Why? Because Ozempic typically has a lower retail price and is more likely to be covered by insurance. On the other hand, Wegovy can be quite pricey, with a 30-day supply costing around $1,500.

The Good News Amid this Shortage

The news is good for those worried about the Ozempic shortage. Dr. Tchang points out that there are other options available for people with diabetes. Ozempic belongs to a group of medications known as GLP-1 receptor agonists, and several different drugs in this family can be used instead, including Trulicity (dulaglutide), Victoza (liraglutide), and Bydureon (exenatide).

There’s also a new kid on the block called tirzepatide (Mounjaro). This medication is a dual GIP and GLP-1 receptor agonist, which means it has a slightly different way of working compared to the others but is still effective for managing blood sugar and aiding in weight loss. Regardless of these alternatives, the strong research backing semaglutide’s benefits, which include PCOS, maybe what’s driving celebrities and other dieters to seek out this particular drug, even if it means getting it off-label.

Research on the Benefits of Weight Loss Linked to Semaglutide

Semaglutide’s Impressive Results in Weight Loss Studies

In a study published in 2021 in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers followed 2,000 obese adults who had not had type 2 diabetes for more than five years. All participants were encouraged to improve their exercise and eating habits. Two-thirds of them were given a weekly injection of semaglutide at a dose of 2.4 mg, which is the highest dose for the weight-loss drug Wegovy. The other third received a placebo injection, which is a shot without any active medication.

The results were pretty impressive. By the end of the trial, people taking semaglutide lost about 15 % of their body weight on average, while those in the placebo group lost about 2.4 %. Most of the participants on the drug (about 86 %) lost at least 5 % of their weight. This is significant because losing at least 5 % of your weight is a common goal set by doctors to help prevent or reverse many health problems linked to obesity. In contrast, only about 32 % of the participants in the control group achieved this weight loss goal.

Some participants taking semaglutide in this study had even more impressive results. Over two-thirds of them lost at least 10 % of their body weight. And about one-third managed to lose at least 20 % of their weight. The researchers pointed out that this level of weight loss is similar to what people might expect from weight-loss surgery. That’s a pretty big deal!

Semaglutide’s Effectiveness in People with Type 2 Diabetes

In another study published in 2021 in The Lancet, researchers tested two different doses of semaglutide in about 1,200 people with type 2 diabetes who were also overweight or obese. The doses tested were the 1 mg dose, which is the maximum available for Ozempic, and the 2.4 mg dose, which is the maximum for Wegovy. Just like in the previous study, all participants received regular support to improve their eating and exercise habits. They were divided into three equal groups, with one group taking a placebo and the other two taking one of the semaglutide doses.

After more than five years in this trial, the results showed that people on the higher dose of semaglutide lost an average of 9.6 % of their body weight. Those on the lower dose lost about 7 % of their weight. In comparison, the placebo group lost only 3.4 % of their body weight. 

Dr. Ildiko Lingvay, a senior study author and endocrinologist at the University of Texas UT Southwestern Medical Center, was quite impressed with the results of the semaglutide study. She said, “This is by far the best result we have had with any weight loss medicine in patients with diabetes.” She even mentioned that the weight loss results with this drug are getting closer to what is seen with bariatric surgery, which typically results in a 20 to 30 % loss of body weight.

Comparing Semaglutide to Other Weight Loss Medications

When comparing semaglutide to its alternative weight loss drugs, it seems to be in a league of its own. A review published in Current Obesity Reports in January 2021 looked at different anti-obesity treatments. The researchers found that, on average, participants lost 6.8 % of their body weight, with 4 % with Contrave (naltrexone-bupropion), 5.4 % with Victoza (liraglutide), Qsymia (phentermine-topiramate), and 2.9 % with Xenical (orlistat), which is also sold over the counter as Ally. None of these results are close to the weight loss achieved by Ozempic (semaglutide).

Ozempic Side Effects & the Complicated History of Weight Loss Drugs

Impressive weight loss results with semaglutide are possible but not without facing risks. In clinical trials, many people taking semaglutide experienced gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation. While most of these side effects were mild to moderate, about 5 % of individuals stopped participating in the trials due to gastrointestinal issues, and around 10 % experienced serious adverse events.

When the FDA approved Wegovy for weight loss in 2021, it highlighted the potential for serious side effects, including pancreatitis, increased heart rate, gallstones, acute kidney injury, dangerously low blood sugar, eye damage, and suicidal behavior or thoughts. It’s also worth noting that the clinical trials leading to the FDA’s approval of Ozempic and Wegovy did not include individuals at a healthy weight. This raises questions about the safety and effectiveness of the drug for those who are not overweight or obese but still want to shed a few pounds.

The history of weight loss drugs is complicated, with the FDA having to withdraw approval for several medications due to severe or potentially life-threatening side effects. For example, certain amphetamines were pulled from the market because they caused addiction; fenfluramine was withdrawn due to heart valve damage; & lorcaserin was removed because it maximized the risk of cancer. 

A High Price for Weight Loss

When it comes to prescription drugs, the cost can vary significantly depending on the medication’s approved uses and a person’s insurance coverage. This is certainly true for semaglutide, which comes in two versions: Ozempic and Wegovy. 

For someone without insurance coverage, Ozempic costs about $1,000 and Wegovy about $1,600 for a 30-month supply, regardless of whether the drug is being used for an FDA-approved purpose or off-label.

Ozempic is more likely to be covered by insurance than Wegovy. Medicare and some insurance plans might cover the use of the Ozempic pen for its FDA-approved treatment of type 2 diabetes. Some plans might even cover it when prescribed off-label. On the other hand, Wegovy, like other obesity drugs, is less likely to be covered by insurance, even for those who meet the criteria for its FDA-approved use. It’s worth noting that Medicare does not cover weight loss drugs.

Specifically, Wegovy is approved for people who are overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 27 and have a weight-related health condition, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or for people who are obese with a BMI of 30 or more. This means that people who are slightly overweight, with a BMI between 25 and 27, may not get insurance coverage for Wegovy. Suffice it to say, anyone taking Wegovy off-label for weight loss is likely facing a high cost.

Dieters Appear to Be Driving Semaglutide Shortages

Despite the high prices of these drugs, there’s a clear demand for them, driven by various reasons. In August 2022, Novo Nordisk, the company that makes both Ozempic and Wegovy, reported that Wegovy was becoming hard to obtain due to “supply constraints following unprecedented product demand and short-term manufacturing issues.” As a result, the company asked healthcare providers not to start new patients on Wegovy and stopped shipments of the two lowest doses of the drug, which are typically used as initial weight-loss treatments. These actions may have increased off-label demand for Ozempic for weight loss, according to some doctors.

At the same time, many people looking to lose weight and facing the full retail price for semaglutide are turning to Ozempic, even though it’s not approved for weight loss. This is because Ozempic is cheaper than Wegovy. Dr. Vivian Fonseca, a professor of medicine and pharmacology and chair of endocrinology at Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, suggests that these off-label prescriptions of Ozempic for losing weight are likely contributing to the shortages.

Alternatives to Ozempic for Diabetes and Weight Loss

While semaglutide faces shortages, other diabetes medications used off-label for weight loss are still widely available, including the older generic pill metformin, according to Dr. Fonseca. Mounjaro, initially approved for treating type 2 diabetes, is another option, retailing for about $1,000 without insurance. Even after its high price, Mounjaro has been in high demand and is experiencing intermittent shortages.

In November 2023, the FDA approved tirzepatide for weight loss under the name Zepbound. A study published in Nature Medicine involving over 800 people with an average weight of 241 pounds showed that tirzepatide, combined with significant lifestyle improvements over three months, helped participants lose more than 60 pounds. It’s uncertain whether this newly approved drug for weight loss will affect the demand for similar medications.

How to Manage Type 2 Diabetes Amid this Shortage?

For those taking Ozempic to manage type 2 diabetes, there are still plenty of good options available to navigate the current shortage, says Dr. Fonseca. For instance, many people with type 2 diabetes who can’t get semaglutide due to shortages can switch to other similar medications like Victoza or Trulicity, which, like Ozempic, are GLP-1 receptor agonists, according to Dr. Robert Kushner, a professor of endocrinology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“GLP-1 receptor agonists are a wonderful medication for the treatment of any patient with type 2 diabetes — and in particular for those who would also benefit from weight loss,” says Dr. Kushner. This is fortunate, as the shortage of semaglutide might persist for some time. “I do not know when it will end,” Dr. Kushner adds. Buy Ozempic and other weight loss medications from the best Canadian online pharmacy


The increasing popularity of Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro as weight loss solutions has led to shortages, raising concerns among those who rely on these medications for diabetes management. In spite of the challenges, there are alternative medications available for those affected by the shortages. Patients need to consult with their healthcare providers to find suitable alternatives that can help manage their diabetes and support their weight loss goals. As the demand for these medications continues to grow, the healthcare industry must address the supply issues to ensure that patients have access to the treatments they need. Meanwhile, if you are considering these medications for weight loss, be aware of the potential side effects and the importance of using them under medical supervision.

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