Emmanuel Thomas, DPA, Friday, May 26, 2023
BERLIN – The growing use of a prescription diabetes drug to aid weight loss is leading to shortages of supply, according to researchers in Germany.
“Currently we have a supply shortage of a diabetes drug, semaglutiden, because people have realized that it can also be used for weight loss,” said David Francas, professor of data and supply chain analysis at Worms University of Applied Sciences.
“That gets hyped and suddenly you have an off-label use for the drug, which can also drive demand.”
Using a drug off-label means when people take it for a problem for which it does not have approval from the regulatory authorities. Semaglutide has been approved as a diabetes drug in Europe since 2018 under the name “Ozempic” to lower blood sugar levels.
In early 2022, the European Union approved the drug “Wegovy” specifically for weight loss, intended for people who are obese, meaning those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more and those who are overweight, with a BMI of 27 or more, with at least one weight-related illness.
“Wegovy” is not yet available in Germany, as the manufacturer Novo Nordisk Pharma confirmed upon request, saying medics are opting to prescribe diabetes drug “Ozempic” instead.
Semaglutide has also been hyped in social media in recent months partly as some celebrities have said it has helped them lose weight, including tech billionaire Elon Musk, who mentioned the drug alongside fasting.
Though studies have shown the drug to be effective for weight loss, many also warn of the risks and side effects of the drug’s unregulated use.