Pharmacists and healthcare professionals in the US are flagging a shortage of two drugs, semaglutide — branded as Ozempic for type 2 diabetes and Wegovy for obesity — thanks to a boom in their popularity.
The social media buzz around ther drugs started last year on TikTok with people claiming it helps with weight loss.
The demand for the drugs further skyrocketed after US-based entrepranuer, Elon Musk acknowledged using Wegovy, along with 'fasting,' for his 'fit, ripped, and healthy' body.
Do these drugs even help with weightloss? Does it have any side effects? FIT answers your FAQs.
What do we know about Ozempic, and Wegovy?
There are two drugs manufactured by Danish multinational pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk – Ozempic and Wegovy.
Both these drugs are are semaglutides that are used as incretins or gut hormones. They are prescribed for people who are overweight or suffering from obesity, and are also suffering from type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol as a precondition.
Ozempic is essentially the same drug as Wegovy, just in a lower dose.
The basic function of these drugs is to change the levels of insulin in diabetes patients. When you take this drug, you get full quickly and the food moves slowly through your gut making you feel full for a longer duration, thus reducing weight.
How much does it cost?
Wegovy could cost around USD 1,349.02 for a month, while Ozempic might cost USD 1,368 per month. Insruance companies often don't cover them.
Is it available in India?
The Drug Controller General of India approved using oral semaglutides to treat type 2 diabetes back in 2020 itself.
However, as of now, these specific drugs are only avaialble in lower doses in India.
What do doctors think of the trend?
Experts are divided on wether it's effective in weightloss, however, there is a concensus that it shouldn't be misused.
Speaking to FIT for a previous story, Dr Ambrish Mithal, an endocrinologist at Delhi's Max Hospital, says that while the drug does seem to be effective in weightloss, it should not be an over the counter drug since it’s not for everybody, and that it should only be used under medical supervision.
Dr Tarun Sahani, a senior consultant for internal medicine at Delhi’s Apollo Hospital, told FIT that since the side effects are way too many, using this drug only for weight loss is not recommended by any doctor.
Does it have any side effects?
According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) Wegovy carries a risk of being carcenogenic (causing cancer). Other listed side effects are,
Increased heart rate
Gall bladder problems
Nausea, Diarrhoea, Vomiting
Apart from these, there is also a potential risk of thyroid C-cell tumours and allergic reactions.
What of the people who really need it?
Wegovy has been facing widespread shortage in the US since the end of 2022.
At the time, Ozempic was prescribed in its stead to make up for the demand, causing a shortage of that drug as well.
People who were on the drugs that were forced to stop taking them have ended up gaining the weight they lost when they were on them, reported NBC News.
Apart from diabetics, the shortage of Wegovy has also been troublesome for people with chronic pain who need the higher dose to manage their pain.
On Wednesday, 1 February, the maker of Wegovy said that it is ramping up production of the drug to meet the high demand.