Tammy Rachel Largent-Phillips, 52, has type 2 diabetes. For the past two years, he has managed the condition using a drug called Ozempic, which helps diabetics control blood sugar levels.
But in November, he was forced to switch to another drug called insulin. The Ozempic he needed was no longer available at his pharmacy.
In recent months, demand for the drug has soared, clashing with global supply issues. Together, this has led to a lack of OZMPIC.
But the popularity of Ozempic or semaglutide is not due to rising rates of diabetes. Instead, it’s because of the weight loss benefits, doctors say. In high doses, semaglutide is used for weight loss. Ozempic manufacturer Novo Nordisk sells higher doses under a different brand name: Wegovy.
Shortages of Wegovi, also extremely popular, were widespread last year. As a result, some people who were taking Wegovi were instead prescribed Ozempic off-label for weight loss. That’s causing problems for people like Largent-Phillips. Who need drugs to manage chronic illnesses.
“It was very frustrating,” Largent-Phillips, of Florida, said of the shortage. Adding that her blood sugar levels were fluctuating because she had to change medications.
People with type 2 diabetes do not use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that tells the body’s cells to absorb glucose, 1 or sugar, from the blood. If the body doesn’t use it well, that sugar stays in the blood, causing blood sugar levels to rise.
Ozempic works by mimicking a hormone in the body that regulates insulin levels. This is a type of medicine called a GLP-1 agonist. The drug is self-administered weekly as an injection.
Without medication, people with type 2 diabetes are at risk of high blood sugar that can lead to serious health problems. Including heart disease, kidney disease, hearing loss and stroke.
“Even in the short term, people can feel bad from high blood glucose levels,” says Dr. Robert Gabe. Chief scientist at the American Diabetes Association.
A supply shortage of Ozempic means that some patients have had. To visit several pharmacies before finding the drug, said Dr. Marcio Griebeler. An endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
That’s not “ideal,” Griebeler said, because patients may not respond in the same way to higher doses.
For those who can’t find the drug at all, the only option is to switch to another drug. Which may not be as effective, said Dr. Susan Spratt, an endocrinologist and senior medical. Director of the Office of Population Health Management at Duke Health North. Carolina.
That’s what 57-year-old Shane Anthony of Seattle had to do. He has type 2 diabetes and hasn’t been able to get Ozempic since October.
His wife, Gerilyn, who is a nurse, said his blood sugar levels have spiked since stopping Ozempic.
“It really drives me crazy; It bothers me,” Anthony said. “We need it to survive and function on a daily basis.”
Switching to another drug when Ozempic becomes available again complicates matters.
Going back to Ozempi isn’t always an easy adjustment, Spratt says; Because it can come with side effects.
“To get back on drugs, you have to start over,” he said, “and that’s really burdensome.”
Dr. Disha Narang, an endocrinologist at Northwestern Medicine’s Lake Forest Hospital in Illinois. Said she sees patients “every day” who were taking Ozempic and later learned their pharmacy no longer carried the drug.
Some patients have had luck finding samples in doctors’ offices, he said.
But others stop taking the medication, he said, because their blood sugar levels rise.
The shortage was difficult for both patients and doctors, he added.
“We don’t necessarily have control over the supply chain,” he said. Adding that doctors act as a sort of middleman between patients and the drugs they need.
Novo Nordisk, the company that makes both Ozempic and Wegovi, told NBC News that availability of Ozempic has improved. But supply issues remain.
Alison Schneider, a company spokeswoman. Said in a statement that Ozempic is currently available in certain doses for type 2 diabetes. However, the company is still experiencing supply issues that will last months. And cause delays in patients receiving their medication in some areas of the United States.
“Anyone concerned about continuity of treatment should contact their health care provider,” he said.
Florida’s Largent-Phillips – who has been documenting her experience on TikTok – speaks for itself