Pharmaceutical companies are experiencing supply chain disruptions and shortages because of the popularity of diabetes drugs used for weight loss.
High demand for popular diabetes drugs that are being prescribed for weight loss, reportedly fueled by social media trends, continue to put pressure on supply.
Influencers and celebrities on social media platform TikTok are showing before-and-after weight loss pictures, giving credit to the diabetes medications semaglutide (Ozempic) and tirzepatide (Mounjaro), according to The Hill.1 Twitter CEO Elon Musk was among those who credited Ozempic2 for helping him lose 30 pounds; an ad for the drug cites weight loss as an effect of the medication, saying the average person loses 12 pounds, The Hill reported.1
As a result, Lilly’s tizrepatide, approved earlier this year to treat type 2 diabetes, is the latest of several diabetes medications to be included in the FDA’s Drug Shortages database.3 Semaglutideand dulaglutide (Trulicity) are also in short supply, while Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide (Wegovy), approved for chronic weight management in June 2021,4 is also having supply issues.
“While we recognize that some healthcare providers may be prescribing [semaglutide] for patients whose goal is to lose weight, 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,” Allison Schneider, director of media relations for Novo Nordisk, told Drug Topics®. “We trust that healthcare providers are evaluating a patient’s individual needs and determining which medicine is right for that particular patient.”
Semaglutide has been approved by the FDA to treat type 2 diabetes since 2017, but it is not approved for chronic weight management, Schneider noted.
Although Wegovy and Ozempic both contain semaglutide, they are different products with different indications, dosages, titration schedules, and delivery devices, Schneider said. “The products are not interchangeable,” she added.
While the 1-mg and 2-mg doses of Ozempic are now available, Novo Nordisk is experiencing “intermittent supply disruptions” of 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,” Schneider said. “While product continues to be manufactured and shipped, patients in some areas of the country will experience delays with these doses.”
The strong global demand for dulaglutide and demand within the United States for tirzepatide, amplified by global competitor incretin shortages, is “resulting in potential short-term delayed fulfillments of wholesaler orders of some doses of [tizrepatide] and [dulaglutide],” a Lilly spokesperson told Drug Topics®.
“Within the United States, we will continue to ship and distribute product; however, depending on continued demand and competitor supply shortages, pharmacies and wholesalers may experience intermittent delays and outages of [dulaglutide] 3.0/4.5-mg and [tizrepatide] 5.0 mg,” the spokesperson added.
All dose strengths of Wegovy are now available to retail pharmacies nationwide, Schneider said. “However, pharmacies may experience normal delays given the time required to order the product from their local distribution center, and geographical variabilities.”
“While production is ongoing, the overall demand for this medicine is still uncertain and will continue to be assessed. Keeping supply stable is a priority,” Schneider said. “We will closely monitor prescribing trends and phase promotional efforts as we assess demand. We take our responsibility to meet the needs of people living with obesity very seriously and have taken significant measures to minimize disruption moving forward.”
1. Casuillo D, Martichoux A; Nexstar Media Wire. TikTok trend leads to diabetes medication shortages. The Hill. December 29, 2022. Accessed January 9, 2023. https://thehill.com/homenews/3791060-tiktok-trend-leads-to-diabetes-medication-shortages/
2. @ElonMusk. Down 30 pounds! November 16, 2022. Accessed January 11, 2023. https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1592767882722963457?s=20&t=7lbNlvXCnsdVJ5r5SKDmJQ
3. FDA drug shortages. FDA. Reverified January 6, 2023. Accessed January 9, 2023. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/drugshortages/dsp_ActiveIngredientDetails.cfm?AI=Tirzepatide%20Injection&st=c
4. Blank C. FDA clears first chronic weight loss drug in 7 years. Formulary Watch. June 7, 2021. Accessed January 9, 2023. https://www.formularywatch.com/view/fda-clears-first-chronic-weight-loss-drug-in-7-years