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Weight loss trend triggers diabetes drug shortage

Ozempic and Mounjaro are used to treat Type 2 diabetes. They're also being used by celebrities and influencers who want to suppress their appetite.

SAN ANTONIO — A weight loss trend is blamed for a diabetes medication shortage.

Ozempic and Mounjaro are used to treat Type 2 diabetes. The drugs, which are injected into the abdomen, are shown to improve blood sugar levels and heart function.  

However, the medication also reduces appetite. It has now become a popular way for celebrities and social media influencers to shed pounds fast.

“This is a diabetic medicine, but it is different than insulin,” said Dr. Stephen Ramirez, the president of Stone Oak Family Practice. “It lowers your sugar, but there is a safety net so that my patients’ sugars don’t get too low. Whenever you eat, your intestines expand and secrete a certain hormone that makes your body feel full. This medicine makes you feel full all the time.”

Since obesity can lead to diabetes, Dr. Ramirez says the drug has been helpful in improving the overall health of at-risk patients.

“Instead of getting two enchiladas, I will get one and maybe not even eat the whole thing,” said Stacey York, a patient at Stone Oak Family Practice. "I have lost 40 pounds since starting [Ozempic].”

Fast results have fueled a frenzy. Elon Musk recently tweeted his results, “Down 30 lbs!”

Rumors of its use by the Kardashians also sparked interest. #Ozempic has been viewed more than 300 million times on TikTok.

"The demand for Ozempic and Mounjaro have been much greater than the companies thought," said Dr. Ramirez. “At one point, I had patients waiting at least three months to get the initial medication. That’s if they were paying cash.”

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It’s not a cheap weight loss method, either. According to Dr. Ramirez, a one-month supply of Mounjaro costs about $1,200 out-of-pocket. Ozempic costs about $875 per month.

“I am astounded every day at how celebrities impact the health of my patients,” Dr. Ramirez said.

The diabetes rate in Texas is above the national average. A 2021 study by the American Diabetes Association shows 12% of the population, or roughly one in ten Texans, have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Dr. Ramirez hopes the medication supply catches up with the demand soon.

Below is a statement from OZEMPIC regarding the supply of the medication:

"The 1 mg and 2mg doses of Ozempic® are now available for patients across the U.S.  However, we are currently experiencing intermittent supply disruptions on the Ozempic® pen that delivers 0.25 mg and 0.5 mg doses due to the combination of incredible demand coupled with overall global supply constraints. While product continues to be manufactured and shipped, patients in some areas of the country will experience delays with these doses. Anyone concerned with continuity of treatment should contact their healthcare provider.

While we recognize that some healthcare providers may be prescribing Ozempic® for patients whose goal is to lose weight, it is up to the clinical discretion of each healthcare provider to choose the best treatment approach for their patients. Novo Nordisk does not promote, suggest, or encourage off-label use of our medicines and is committed to fully complying with all applicable US laws and regulations in the promotion of our products. We trust that healthcare providers are evaluating a patient’s individual needs and determining which medicine is right for that particular patient."

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