ROCHESTER, NY – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 35 million Americans are living with type 2 diabetes. And with the new year, weight loss goals have caused a shortage of a certain diabetes drug.
Ozempic, a diabetes drug that can help people lose weight, is facing a shortage.
“It’s designed to help people with diabetes by lowering their blood sugar, helping them prevent complications that can affect your eyes, your kidneys, your blood circulation, and again the risk of heart attack and stroke,” certified diabetes nurse educator Sally Nordquist said.
It’s hard to find because of its celebrity and social media hype, featuring in videos with over 313 million views on platforms like TikTok.
“It’s being used by people who don’t have that diagnosis, and you’re taking the supply away from people who need it for their own health,” Nordquist said. “And I’m not minimizing weight loss, but when you have diabetes, you have other conditions that go along with it. So you take away what works for them.”
This leaves many other options either out of insurance or out of stock.
“Then if you don’t have medication available, you have to find out what is available,” endocrinologist Dr. Susanne Miedlich said. “Then you have to order that if there are very motivated patients, they will indeed go to a different pharmacy, and sometimes you can be so lucky, but you add a lot to the patient’s table. And if they have diabetes, if they’re not on medication, they obviously have high sugar limits, to put it mildly.
While the drug itself may not cause harm, its supply does.
“I don’t see it necessarily being harmful to the patients who use it,” Dr. Miedlich said. “But I think it’s like usual, it hits the wrong people if they’re in short supply because they can’t stand up for themselves. It becomes this kind of designer or wellness drug.”
Medical professionals need to emphasize the importance of educating others to get a proper diagnosis before taking prescribed medications.
“I think the biggest part is being aware of your own health or your risk factors,” Nordquist said. “Talk to your family, find out who has what and contact your primary care physician. And if you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness, take advantage of the education available in the community.”
Monitoring and managing diabetes can be an everyday task, and if done right, it can save lives.
“I’m at risk for it, and my kids are at risk because their dad has diabetes,” Nordquist said. “But it just helps because my dad and I were able to delay the progression of his kidney disease for eight years, which is huge. And it was just because he changed, he was more aware and he wanted me to help him. So you can’t do it without support.”