Cristina Herráez

Pharmacists call for “sanity” in the face of problems with Ozempic, the diabetes injections used to lose weight

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“A medicine against extra kilos”. “The miracle that many were waiting for and that is now a reality: Ozempic”. Nothing is that simple. Everything is much more complex, but these are the messages that circulate on social networks and that They attribute to this treatment the evident weight loss of certain celebrities such as Kim Kardashian or Elon Musk (The controversial tycoon has openly acknowledged this).

The problem is that Ozempic was not designed, in principle, to lose those extra kilos, but to treat a type of diabetes; but now, after verifying its slimming effect, its demand has increased exponentially worldwide and diabetics are having trouble finding it. In Spain it is already, in fact, one of the five medicines that presents the most supply incidents.

“I can’t ask you because there aren’t any in the warehouse, the laboratory isn’t supplying it,” they tell NIUS at a pharmacy in the center of Madrid. whatDiabetics can be deprived of their treatment for a matter that, in some cases, is merely aesthetic?

Shortage of supply that is not exclusive to this drug

The message that must be given is “tranquility and sanity” because there are alternatives, Juan Pedro Rísquez, vice president of the General Council of Pharmaceutical Colleges, told NIUS. Also, It doesn’t just happen with the Ozempic, supply problems with medicines go back a long way and have increased in recent yearsThat is why the Community and Spanish authorities are trying to adopt measures to solve it, such as depending less on Asian production and producing again in Europe and Spain.

In any case, indicates Rísquez, the supply problem with Ozempic is not continuous. “It may be that today someone goes to the pharmacy with your prescription and finds it without a problem, or it may not and you have to wait a few hours for it to be brought from another pharmacy, for that there is a communication network between the different establishments”. Even in the event that you had to wait a couple of days to find it due to a greater peak in demand, there would be an alternative since supply problems do not affect all presentationssays Juan Pedro Rísquez. The most demanded are the 1 mg injections, but there are also 0.5 or 0.25 and in these presentations for now there are no incidents. In fact, in the pharmacy randomly consulted by NIUS they do have 0.25 injections, although to get them the patient has to return to his doctor to change the prescription. “It’s all complications, I’m sorry,” says the pharmacist.

Alternatives and controlled distribution

In the event that there is no chance of finding Ozempic, there are other drugs to treat type 2 diabetes, explains Juan Pedro Rísquez. Medications that are not state-of-the-art, but are also effective against disease. This is also explained by Aemps, the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products. Laboratories still do not have the manufacturing capacity to cope with so much demand, for this reason it is expected that at least in a good part of 2023 there will continue to be a controlled distributionagency sources indicate to NIUS.

A controlled distribution that involves prioritizing the use according to the indication and that in Spain is limited to type 2 diabetes. In this case, the cost of the medication (about 150 euros per month) is covered by Social Security. Although there is no shortage of private clinics that prescribe it to lose weight. In this case, if there is a prescription, the pharmacist will be able to dispense the medication, although the user will have to pay the price.

Problems also with analogous drugs

As recognized by the AEMPS, there are not only supply incidents with Ozempic, “also with similar drugs, Authorized to improve glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes not adequately controlled with diet and exercise“.

Already in October, Lilly, Trulicity’s pharmaceutical marketer, reported the impossibility of coping with the continued increase in demand. Likewise, Novo Nordisk Pharma, the local representative of Ozempic, reported intermittent availability of this drug that could be maintained through 2023.

For this reason, the AEMPS asks “prescribers” to replace the treatment with one of the available drugs from the same therapeutic group as long as the problems persist:

  • Byetta (exenatide; administered by subcutaneous injection before meals 2 times daily).
  • Lyxumia (lixisenatide; administered by subcutaneous injection before meals once a day)
  • Rybelsus (semaglutide; taken by mouth once daily on an empty stomach and taken with half a glass of water and wait at least 30 minutes before eating or drinking or taking other oral medications).
  • Victoza (liraglutide; administered by subcutaneous injection once a day, at any time of the day, without regard to meals).

Faster and longer-lasting satiety

Medications that, as explained at the prestigious Mayo Clinic, imitate the action of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide type 1, so that when blood glucose levels begin to rise after eating, they stimulate the body to produce more insulin and thus reduce glucose levels, controlling type 2 diabetes. Drugs that, according to specialists, appear to help control hunger by slowing the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine. The feeling of satiety appears faster and lasts longer, so you eat less.

The supply problems will be solved little by little, so “tranquility and sanity”, insists Juan Pedro Rísquez, vice president of the General Council of Pharmaceutical Colleges, given the shortage of some medicines that in the United States they are already authorized to fight obesity, a disease with a higher incidence than type 2 diabetes and which, in no case, should be confused with those extra kilos.


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