Ozempic, which received FDA approval for diabetes treatment in 2017, has been a go-to medication for adults with type 2 diabetes as a once-weekly injectable to manage their blood sugar. The active ingredient in Ozempic, semaglutide, is also FDA-approved at higher doses for treating individuals with obesity under the name Wegovy.
With that in mind, “Ozempic is FDA approved for the treatment of diabetes only,” Christopher McGowan, M.D., told Forbes Health. “It is not a weight loss medication.”
Wegovy, however, was FDA-approved for weight loss in 2021. While they are essentially the same medication, but offered in different doses, Ozempic is usually covered by insurance, where Wegovy is not.
The weight loss benefits have also led to an online popularization of Ozempic and Wegovy, with billionaires like Elon Musk and Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin speaking openly about their use of it. Ozempic also took the focus of a TikTok trend that promoted the drug as a weight-loss hack.
The rise in popularity has led to a scarcity in product for those who actually need it.
“It’s been a headache for us, but it’s harmful for our patients,” Dr. Archana Sadhu, an endocrinologist and head of the diabetes program at Houston Methodist, told the Houston Chronicle. “There’s no way to dispute the fact that it’s beneficial for both types of patients [diabetes sand obesity], but it needs to be medically indicated. Our patients with obesity should be meeting the criteria that were set forth when the drug was approved for obesity management.”
Novo Nordisk, the Danish company behind the medication, said they were working on producing more of the medication to match the demand, but to expect periodic shortages in the meantime.
Type 2 diabetes patients in need of medication who are unable to find it face a chance at more serious symptoms and have to start from scratch each time they switch to a new medication.
“It’s not just something that you can just write a script and the patient takes off,” said Sadhu. “You really have to talk to them about how insulin works and how to avoid low blood sugars.”
Novo Nordisk hopes the shortage will lighten up around mid-March.