A diabetic man is facing a critical shortage of medication essential for managing his condition due to an upsurge in demand by individuals using it as a weight loss aid. This situation arises amid a worldwide scarcity of the drug Ozempic, with the anticipation of supplies returning to normal no earlier than June 2024.
The Welsh government has responded to the crisis by stating that patients’ medications will be reevaluated, and alternative treatments will be prescribed where feasible.
John Whale, a 72-year-old who has been living with type 2 diabetes for seven years, is one of many affected by this predicament. Earlier this year, he was prescribed a weekly Ozempic injection to address his elevated blood sugar levels.
Whale reported, “I commenced this regimen at the start of March, and by June, my blood test results had decreased to approximately 57. It had reduced by more than half in just three months, so I believed I was on the right path.”
One of the drug’s side effects, containing the active ingredient semaglutide, is its appetite-suppressing properties, making it increasingly popular as a weight loss aid. However, this newfound popularity has triggered a global shortage, leaving patients like John struggling to obtain their essential supplies.
Whale explained, “There’s a pharmacy linked to my surgery across the road, and they informed me that they couldn’t procure it. I had my prescription rewritten and visited nearly every pharmacy in north Cardiff, only to find it entirely out of stock. Something must be done because the lack of access to this regular treatment could lead to considerable discomfort, and even death, in the coming years.”
Concerns arise that without access to the medication, individuals like Mr. Whale may experience complications from sustained high blood sugar levels, potentially necessitating disability benefits, care, or hospitalization, all of which would incur additional expenses for the Welsh or UK government.
The Ozempic supply situation is projected to remain critical until June 2024, a development that raises alarms among diabetes-focused charities.
Rachel Burr, the director of Diabetes Cymru, expressed her concern, stating, “[People are] sitting at home, they’re reading the news, and it can be very stressful to think that their medication may run out. It’s really concerning to us that it’s being prescribed off-label at a time when people are unable to access their medication for type 2 diabetes. We would certainly like to see clinicians adhering to the guidance that’s been given, reserving it solely for individuals in Wales and the UK living with type 2 diabetes.”
The Welsh government has responded to the crisis, indicating, “Due to the extent and anticipated duration of the global supply disruption, in line with practice in all parts of the UK, people currently prescribed semaglutide will have their medication reviewed and, where necessary, an alternative treatment will be prescribed.”