Belgium is currently evaluating the prospect of imposing a short-term prohibition on the utilization of Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic (semaglutide) for weight loss in individuals struggling with obesity, in response to an ongoing scarcity of the medication.
The potential ban is expected to remain in effect for a duration spanning from several weeks to a few months, contingent upon the availability of Ozempic, as stated by Belgium’s Federal Health Minister, Franck Vandenbroucke. A dedicated task force, comprising representatives from government agencies, the pharmaceutical industry, insurance providers, distributors, and pharmacists, will convene on Wednesday to deliberate whether to implement this restriction.
Vandenbroucke expressed his concerns, stating, “We have communicated to medical professionals the necessity of reserving this drug for their patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. However, it has become apparent that this strategy is proving insufficient.” He acknowledged the need for further deliberations on the matter, underscoring that Ozempic “may also offer benefits to individuals suffering from morbid obesity.”
“I firmly believe that a robust and legally binding directive is imperative, as mere recommendations have proven inadequate,” Vandenbroucke emphasized.
The active component of Ozempic, semaglutide, is a peptide-based therapeutic that emulates the GLP-1 hormone, stimulating its associated receptor to prompt the release of insulin in response to elevated blood sugar levels. This unique mechanism of action renders semaglutide an effective therapeutic agent for both blood glucose regulation and weight management.
It is noteworthy that semaglutide serves as the primary ingredient in Novo Nordisk’s weight loss drug, Wegovy, which secured approval in the United States in June 2021. The introduction of this weight loss therapy was met with an overwhelming demand that quickly outstripped the available supply and Novo Nordisk’s production capacity.
In December 2021, Novo Nordisk disclosed that a third-party service provider responsible for filling the syringes for Wegovy pens encountered complications related to Good Manufacturing Practices, necessitating a temporary suspension of deliveries.
Consequently, Novo Nordisk conceded that they would fall short of their supply targets for the first half of 2022, with limited access for new patients looking to commence treatment.
At that time, Novo Nordisk had anticipated meeting U.S. demand in the latter part of 2022. Nevertheless, manufacturing difficulties persisted, leading the company to reconsider the product’s launch in Europe. Wegovy made its debut in Germany in July 2023, marking its “first significant presence in the European market”
In September 2023, semaglutide entered the UK market, but Novo Nordisk continued to grapple with the soaring demand for the weight loss therapy. Last month, the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care implemented a ban on Ozempic’s usage for weight loss, instructing doctors to limit prescriptions to individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.