Ozempic: A woman denied diabetes medication because the drugs are in high demand
A nationwide shortage of a life-saving drug in high demand among weight-loss hopefuls has wreaked havoc on a woman’s body.
A woman with type 2 diabetes couldn’t get the medication she needed for nearly a month after it was taken as a miracle weight loss solution.
Thousands of Australians have started using Ozempic (semaglutide) for weight loss, the once-a-week injection drug helping to suppress hunger.
But it led to a nationwide drug shortage and deprived people with diabetes of access to the drugs they needed.
Ashleigh Rae has type 2 diabetes and has been without Ozempic for about a month.
This prolonged period without medication had major side effects, with Ms Rae saying “it took its toll” on her body.
“Because Ozempic changes the way you digest food, when you suddenly have a withdrawal from it, your body should go back to how it was before,” she said.
“It was not a pleasant process. You have a lot of digestive discomfort. For me, that’s pretty extreme.
“I found it very difficult to go out in public because you just didn’t know what was going to happen or when.
“Without it, your blood sugar goes a little crazy, which means the rest of your diabetes can be very difficult to manage.”
Ms Rae is also worried, as her immune system is compromised by her inability to properly manage her blood sugar, and Covid is still rampant in the community.
She had been on Ozempic for several months before it “suddenly” ran out of stock, a loss she felt severely because it “worked so well” for her.
“My local pharmacy that has been taking care of me since I was a kid told me to go somewhere else. I did, but couldn’t find it anywhere,” she said.
“I switched from ordering from my pharmacist to Ozempic because it was so new and nobody was there all of a sudden there was no stock anywhere in Australia in the space of a script.
“I was really happy with the impact it had. I was managing my blood sugar very well and eating less.
Ms Rae has been told “in theory” it should be back in stock this week, but there are no guarantees.
Pharmacy Guild of Australia chairman Trent Twomey told 2GB last Friday that Ozempic is used for weight loss, but is only approved for people with type 2 diabetes, such as as prescribed by their doctor.
“So what the drug Ozempic has been approved for in Australia – it’s strictly for people with type 2 diabetes who need to lose weight,” he said.
“You must have a certain body mass index to be eligible.”
Non-diabetic Australians were able to access Ozempic via “Dr Google”, with online weight loss doctors dispensing the drug to patients using a questionnaire and without even speaking to them.
“There have been these enterprising GPs who launch these apps that issue a script without ever seeing a patient,” Mr Twomey said.
“There’s nothing illegal about it, a little immoral I would say, but nothing illegal. This is what increases this demand unfortunately.
Ms Rae has made it clear that she does not want to shame or condemn anyone for using Ozempic as a weight loss tool, acknowledging that it is a complex health issue with several intersecting factors.
His frustration is not with the consumer but those who oversell it, especially after hearing stories of doctors suggesting Ozempic to their patients out of nowhere in general conversations.
“It’s really frustrating to hear stories of people using it to shed a few pounds,” she said.
“Taking it because you want to lose a bit of weight like a few pounds versus people who really need it for serious weight issues and diabetes is very different.”
Healthcare company Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals said last week that it was experiencing “strong demand for Ozempic.”
“Our priority is to ensure that people with type 2 diabetes can access Ozempic and we are taking steps for a stable and continuous supply,” he said in a statement.