🔵 The active ingredient semaglutide is partly to blame for a shortage of Ozempic

🔵 Prescriptions for Ozempic doubled between between 2021 and 2023

🔵 Its use as a weight loss drug have made it hard for diabetes patients to find it

If you need to renew your prescription for the diabetes drug Ozempic it's not going to be easy.

The drug to help Type 2 diabetics manage their blood sugar made by Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk is in short supply for two reasons.

One is that its active ingredient called semaglutide, which causes weight loss, is also in short supply.

That leads to the second reason: its popularity as a way to quickly drop pounds has helped wipe out supply.

Ozempic has become popular

Prescriptions for Ozempic have doubled since the summer of 2021 to more than 1.2 million, according to the health data firm IQVIA.

Among the celebrities who have admitted to using Ozempic are Elon Musk, Tracy Morgan and Sharon Osbourne. Others have denied it despite, in some cases, sudden weight loss.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

Ozempic vs. Wegovy

Stephen Schondelmeyer, a University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy professor, told the Associated Press in May that another reason for the Ozempic shortage is that the sister drug Wegovy, which has a higher dose of semaglutide, is also more expensive. The per-milligram price for Wegovy can be more than twice as much as Ozempic, according to Schondelmeyer.

This leaves those who need it for their diabetes struggling to find the medication.

One woman's struggle to find medication in PA, NJ

Carrie Maetz of New Hope, Pennsylvania is at the end of her three-month prescription and cannot get it from her regular pharmacist. Her doctor with Penn Medicine has not been able to help her.

"I've actually called pharmacies 30 miles away from where I live. The best I could get is someone who was very helpful at one of the pharmacies in New Jersey in Clinton, who said that he could get a test pen but had to call the doctor first and he did. But there's there's no test pens available right now that he knows of. So he's calling me when one becomes available," Maetz told New Jersey 101.5.

Ozempic pen
Ozempic pen (Carrie Maetz )

Her doctor has suggested she double up the dosage on another pill she takes as part of her medication regimen but it affects her stomach, which is why Maetz is taking Ozempic in the first place.

"The Ozempic controls my sugar the best out of anything. I've been diabetic since 2005 and even dieting and exercise doesn't control it," Maetz said.

"I was on insulin for six years and got off of it with the 8 Weeks to Wellness program," she said, referring to a weight loss program that combines exercise, diet and chiropractic treatment.

The injectable drug Ozempic
The injectable drug Ozempic (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

What's the solution to supply?

There does not seem to be a clear solution to the shortage or even a stopgap.

Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen told Reuters in August that it could “take quite some years” before the full demand for both Ozempic and Wegovy is met.

The American Diabetes Association's Greater New York/New Jersey chapter, which says there are over two million people in the two states with diabetes, did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's inquiry about how those patients can get Ozempic despite the shortage or suggest a workaround.

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