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Weight loss usage for diabetic medications is driving up demand and causing a shortage

“Everybody's looking for a magic bullet. So, they lose weight, it still boils down to good diet and exercise,” said Dr. Mark Castellaw, BMG Director.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With the start of the New Year, many have a goal to lose weight. Some are exploring options that are making it difficult for patients with diabetes

It has been an unwanted chance. 

“It's hereditary, and my father and mother both had it… my sisters have it,” said Darrell Woodard of Memphis.

Woodard suspected at some point, diabetes would be his fight too. 

“I've gotten diagnosed after I left the Army in 1999,” said Woodard.

He has been able to keep his diabetes under control with few medications, exercise, and healthy eating. Some are not as fortunate - needing stronger medications.

However, that is where the problem lays. 

“Some of the diabetic medicines - Ozempic, for example, Mounjaro, another -are being used by doctors for not just diabetes, but also weight loss,” said Dr. Mark Castellaw, Baptist Medical Group Director.

The usage for weight loss is increasing the demand. There is a shortage of certain medications for diabetes such as Ozempic. 

“It's being utilized not only for type two diabetes, [it] is also being utilized for weight loss,” said Dr. Castellaw. “Those medications are used off label right now because they're not directly FDA approved for that.”

Novo Nordisk, the company that makes Ozempic, said the shortage in lower doses of Ozempic is due to global supply constraints and higher demand.

Allison Schneider, Novo Nordisk Media Relations & Issues Management, said in a statement, “The 1 mg and 2mg doses of Ozempic® are now available for patients with type 2 diabetes 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.”

“We got to realize that medications like this, they do have side effects. And they need to be monitored carefully by healthcare professionals,” said Dr. Castellaw.

To deal with the shortage, Christ Community Health Services has been monitoring their supply. 

“Currently, our protocol is if you have patients who are already on it, we’ll do our best to continue them on it and get the medication to them. It’s really a day by day. Sometimes we can order it. Sometimes we can back order,” said Nicole Northcutt, Christ Community Health Services Inventory Care Clinical Pharmacist. "Specifically, right now we’re not doing new starts if possible.”

“Everybody's looking for a magic bullet. So, they lose weight, it still boils down to good diet and exercise,” said Dr. Castellaw. 

Use of that magic bullet is compromising those who need it.

“It's scary for someone with diabetes,” said Woodard. “Diabetes is a killer.”

It is a killer that can be stopped if given the chance.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 37 million people have diabetes. About one in five don’t know it.

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