In February 2021, news gear reported on a new drug dubbed a “game changer” in obesity treatment — and for once, a large gold-standard clinical trial backed up the hype.
A weekly injection of the drug semaglutide for 68 weeks resulted in an average loss of 15 percent body weight in trial participants.
Over a third of the participants who took the drug lost more than 20 percent of their weight.
On the Australian stage, the drug was approved as a treatment for type 2 diabetes for patients who could not tolerate or did not benefit from the standard medication, metformin.
As we reported, some bariatric surgeons used semaglutide to help patients lose enough weight to undergo surgery safely.
Big and interesting news, right? Then the story fell silent.
Now there is a shortage.
In Australia, semaglutide is marketed under the brand name Ozempic. The drug is not a pill or liquid but an epi-pen for type 2 diabetics who need to lose weight and lower their blood sugar levels.
It is often delivered in the abdomen or thigh.
Two weeks ago, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) quietly released a statement to primary care physicians urging them to stop prescribing the drug to treat obesity.
The drug has been so hit with people desperate to lose weight that a shortage ” significantly affects people taking Ozempic for its approved use of type 2 diabetes.”
The TGA statement, issued in conjunction with nine top medical agencies, including the AMA, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, and the Australian Diabetes Society, advised:
“The increased demand is due to expanded prescribing for obesity treatment, for which Ozempic is not indicated … It is essential to limit the prescribing of semaglutide to people with type 2 diabetes.”
The story may have been relatively low-key, but this week it came out with reports in The Guardian and Australian Doctor, both of which blamed TikTok for the drug shortage.
Someone is pumping me up to clean my house 🤣 #ozempicweightloss #ozempicjourney #ozempicau #ozempicforweightloss
♬ About Damn Time – Lizzo
#ozempic … 74 million views and counting
People don’t just document their weight loss journey; they inject themselves with some staggering Pulp Fiction cool.
A typical TikTok user is @taylor_gracve96, who documents her “first time injecting Ozempic” with the required awkward pen preparation, lifting her T-shirt, squeezing the stomach, pressing the pointy part, and using her thumb to actuate the plunger and deliver the dose.
I am starting my Olympic weight loss journey today. First time injection, starting at 83kg 🥰 #ozempic #australia #weightloss #ozempicweightloss #ozempicjourney
♬ Feeling Whitney (acoustic instrumental) – JustAcoustic
But it might be @taylor_grace96’s last jab for a while.
The TGA has warned that pharmacists may be required to refuse prescriptions to people who have received semaglutide for a condition other than diabetes.
“People who request a prescription for semaglutide for obesity treatment should be informed about alternative treatment options as priority is given to people taking Ozempic for the registered indication of type 2 diabetes,” the TGA said.
According to Australian Doctors, GPs have been advised to contact their diabetes patients and inform them about the shortage. These patients should “contact their pharmacy as soon as possible to ensure the scripts are completed”.
With TikTokers down, expect a rush for sad-faced emojis.