Type 2 diabetics forced to seek alternative treatments as use of Ozempic for weight loss grows
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A drug shortage has disrupted treatment for diabetics, with normal supply unlikely to return this year, according to a pharmaceutical manufacturer.
Ozempic is a weekly injectable, which can also be prescribed off-label for weight loss.
People wanting to lose weight sent demand sky-high as weight loss successes shared on social media stoked requests at pharmacies and doctors' consulting rooms.
The shortage of supply of Ozempic has led directly to a shortage of the only other approved drug in its class, Trulicity.
People with diabetes can inject either Ozempic or Trulicity weekly to manage blood sugar levels.
They also increase a feeling of fullness by acting on appetite centres in the brain.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration said the increased demand was due to extensive prescribing for obesity management, for which Ozempic was not indicated.
The administration has advised doctors to limit prescribing the drug to people with Type 2 diabetes.
The shortage has proven to be a nightmare for diabetics, including Central Coast mum Kyra McPaul.
She said Ozempic was a lot better than her previous treatment after being prescribed the drug seven years ago.
"It was so much easier to manage, because it was a once weekly injection, rather than every day," she said.
She had intermittent access to her regular doses after her pharmacist warned her of a national shortage.
People living with diabetes are having to choose between paying for rent or the food needed to manage their condition.
She has started using insulin after five weeks without Ozempic.
"There's a lot more worry with that," she said.
"Three injections a day, and another one before bed, and you have to prick your finger to check sugar levels across the day."
Ms McPaul, who is raising her one year old twin girls and works in aged care, said managing her diabetes was a major concern — and not only for her.
"I had to call my husband the other day and tell him you need to come home, in case anything happens, my sugar levels are high," she said.
"I slept for nearly 24 hours. The headaches, the vomiting, it's all very worrying."
Ms McPaul's Newcastle diabetes educator Annette Parkes-Considine first became aware of a possible shortage in April.
She said she and the team at the Hunter Diabetes Centre were gobsmacked it had been allowed to happen.
"The governing body should certainly have seen what was happening, and said 'hang on a minute, we need to re-evaluate this, because there's going to be a shortage'," Ms Parkes-Considine said.
Her main concern was for her diabetic patients.
She said it was critical they monitored their sugar levels.
"We've never had to worry about a shortage of medications," she said.
"What I don't want to see is people with Type 2 diabetes needing hospital admissions because their sugars are high and they don't know what to do."
Pharmacy Guild of Australia national vice-president Anthony Tassone said the shortage was causing a lot of concern for patients, prescribers and pharmacists.
He said there was very little stock coming through and the horse had already bolted by the time the Therapeutic Goods Administration made its statement about giving priority to diabetes patients.
"We don't have the answers patients deserve, there are waiting lists for any stock that is delivered," he said.
Mr Tassone said there needed to be greater protection of supply for drugs listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Trulicity manufacturer, Lilly, said global supply pressures were anticipated to extend beyond the end of the year.
In a statement to the ABC, Ozempic manufacturer Novo Nordisk said it anticipated intermittent supply until the end of the year.
It said it was working hard to satisfy demand to the greatest extent possible, and that increasing supply took time.
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