In Australia, for example, the government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) had to ask general practitioners to only prescribe the drug — an injectable solution of semaglutide — for the purpose of treating diabetes.
As the TGA reported in a joint statement with other medical bodies in May, the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk notified the administration of an Ozempic shortage due to “an unexpected increase in consumer demand … due to extensive prescribing for obesity management, for which Ozempic is not indicated.”
Amid the shortage, health professionals were asked to limit Ozempic prescriptions to diabetes patients.
“To prioritize essential continuity of care for people with type 2 diabetes during the shortage, health professionals should limit prescribing and dispensing of semaglutide to its approved use: treatment of adults with insufficiently controlled type 2 diabetes mellitus as an adjunct to diet and exercise,” the TGA stated.
The administration also said that people requesting an Ozempic prescription for weight loss “should be advised of alternative treatment options, as people using Ozempic for the registered indication of type 2 diabetes are being prioritized.”
The TGA updated its statement on Aug. 4 to note that Ozempic’s “intermittent availability” will continue through the end of December 2022.
The FDA approved Wegovy, a higher dose of semaglutide, as a weight-management drug last summer.
But Wegovy hasn’t gotten the green light everywhere. “There are lots of issues people need to be aware of, but most importantly, it’s not yet approved in Australia or the UK for weight loss,” Dr. Karen Price, president of Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, told The Guardian in May. “It’s being used off-label, which means that this huge demand is now stopping people who have a genuine need for the medication for their diabetes.”
Price also sounded the alarm about TikTok recommendations of prescription drugs. She said, “Often it’s very simplistically done, by non-medical people, and sadly, it’s a very consumeristic approach to healthcare. Healthcare is never simple, and it does need expert guidance.”
Novo Nordisk is working to maintain “sufficient inventory levels” of semaglutide.
According to Endpoints News, manufacturing issues at the contract manufacturer responsible for filling syringes contributed to the semaglutide shortage. But Doug Langa, EVP and head of North America operations at Novo Nordisk, said on an earnings call earlier this month that “commercial production at the [contract manufacturing organization] was reinitiated in the second quarter of 2022 and inventory building is ongoing.”
On the call, the company said that it planned to make all dose strengths available in the U.S. by the end of 2022. And the company wants to ensure “sufficient inventory levels [so as] not to disappoint patients and physicians again,” CFO Karsten Munk Knudsen said, per Endpoints News.