Demand soars as people turn to diabetes, obesity medication for weight loss

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Saturday, January 7, 2023
Demand soars as people turn to diabetes drugs for weight loss
Social media has led to a huge demand for drugs like Ozempic that are commonly used to treat obesity and diabetes, in an effort to get skinnier. 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda has more.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Social media influence has led to a huge demand for drugs that are commonly used to treat obesity and diabetes, all in an effort to get skinnier.

You may have seen photos of celebrities and others across TikTok and social media showing off dramatic weight loss.

How have they shed those pounds so quickly?

Some says its diet and exercise, yet millions are openly crediting drugs used to treat obesity and diabetes for getting so skinny.

That influence has led to huge demand for the injections, which has caused a world-wide shortage of the treatment diabetics need to manage their disease.

When Twitter owner Elon Musk credited his slim down to fasting and Wegovy, the diabetes drug used to manage weight gain, search traffic for the medicine went viral, and use of the injections meant to maintain blood sugar blew up.

Use of a similar drug for diabetics, Ozempic, grew 57 % in 2022.

Now, 7 On Your Side is learning that knock-off shots are being sold on the street for cheap, and doctors are warning to watch out.

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However, with headlines screaming "Hollywood's secret," or "miracle injection for weight loss," demand has soared, especially as people ponder which celebrities are denying use of the diabetes drugs to quickly drop pounds.

The hashtag #Ozempic, has clocked over 274 million views on TikTok, and now those who are obese or diabetic can't get their pen injection scripts filled.

Jennifer Del Carmen, a diabetic and Ozempic user, said "I already called my pharmacy and they're out of stock, and my last dose was just this week and I'm concerned I don't have anything again for next week."

She went to her Walgreens, CVS and RITE Aid in Queens, with no luck to snag any first-dose Ozempic which she needs to regulate her blood sugar levels.

Dr. Edwin Torres, a nurse practitioner and Ph.D., who is a diabetes treatment specialist at Montefiore Health System, says he's concerned for patients experiencing disruptions in the drug therapy, because it puts them at risk for weight gain, stroke and heart attacks.

Even more worrisome is what Dr. Torres is being told.

"I just heard of a patient yesterday that works at a salon and there was a guy who walked in that was selling it (Ozempic) for $300," Dr. Torres said.

A month's supply can cost $1,000 out of pocket.

At a pharmacies in Cresskill, New Jersey, there's a wait list for the injections. Patients with diabetes are being prioritized.

Yaz Shah, a pharmacist and the owner of Hudson Drug, said suppliers are rationing the first dose of Ozempic and other similar injections.

"We ordered eight of them yesterday and we received two of them, everyone wants to use it, celebrities are using it, everybody wants to lose weight," Shah said.

Novo Nordisk, the makers of the semaglutide Wegovy, told 7 On Your Side that while it recognizes some health care providers may be prescribing Ozempic for patients whose goal is to lose weight, "It does not promote, suggest, or encourage off-label use of our medicines."

Wegovy is approved by the FDA for obesity and Ozempic, which is only approved for diabetes.

Novo Nordisk said incredible demand coupled with overall global supply constraints led to supply disruption, and that they will be closely monitoring prescribing trends in order to prioritize keeping supplies stable.

Dr. Torres says diet and exercise should always be the first step to losing weight.

He says people should only turn to weight loss injection if diet and exercise don't help them manage a healthy weight. He warns patients should not share needles or doses and do not purchase the drugs from unlicensed dealers or use pens which are in unsealed boxes.

Remember, the injections need to be kept cold and must be mixed or compounded in a hygienic environment.

"When you get anything from the street you are gambling with your health, it's like a box of chocolates, you don't know what you're going to get," Dr. Torres said.

Here are the big take aways:

- Use only under doctor supervision.

- Family history and drug Interaction play a big role in if this is safe for you to take, and any side effects could be very dangerous.

- If you need it for weight control and cannot find it or did not get approved, ask your provider for safer alternatives.



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