The increasing use of diabetes drug Ozempic as a weight-loss treatment prompted the European Medicines Agency to urge doctors to prioritize the injection made by Novo Nordisk A/S for diabetics, who may be at risk if they don’t get it.
Demand for Ozempic has surged because it’s the same drug as Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy weight-loss treatment, but at a different dose. Doctors have been prescribing Ozempic off-label to patients desperate to try the most recent weight-loss treatment. While Ozempic is sold across Europe, Wegovy is yet to launch in most of the region and has also faced shortages in the U.S.
“Increased demand for Ozempic has led to shortages, which are expected to continue throughout 2023,” the EMA said March 13. “Ozempic is only indicated for the treatment of adults with insufficiently controlled type 2 diabetes mellitus,” and any other use may endanger those patients’ health.
Diabetes patients who may run out of Ozempic should be switched to an alternative to avoid hyperglycemic reactions, the EMA said.
Wegovy is the first new obesity medicine to reach the market in years and has been found to help overweight people lose about 15% of their total body weight as it dampens the appetite.
Demand for Wegovy has been spurred by use by Hollywood actors as well as Elon Musk. Sales for the weight-loss drug quadrupled to 6.2 billion Danish kroner ($892 million) in 2022, helping turn Novo Nordisk into Europe’s second-biggest company by market value.
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