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What’s Going On with the Wegovy & Ozempic Shortage
Updated on: August 2023
Written by: Kelly Koeppel
Update: Wegovy Shortage to Continue Into 2024
According to a news release on CNN on August 10, 2023, Novo Nordisk expects supply restrictions on starter doses of the weight loss medicine Wegovy to persist into 2024, several months beyond its previous prediction.
Wegovy and Ozempic have been all over the news this year. With chronic obesity in the US at 42.4%, this means that more than 4 in 10 adults in the United States are obese. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.
In June of 2021, hope for those who have struggled with chronic obesity came when the FDA approved Wegovy (semaglutide) for weight loss in adults with obesity or overweight with at least one weight-related condition (such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol). Ozempic is not specifically approved for weight loss, so taking it for this purpose constitutes off-label use. The problem now is that no one can get it. Let’s take a closer look at what is really going on with the Wegovy shortage.
What Is Causing the Shortage?
While supply chain issues have been a cause of medicine shortages in recent years, the current shortage is most likely tied to the rapid increase in prescriptions. In the first quarter of 2022, Wegovy was prescribed to over 1.2 million people in the United States. This represents an increase of over 500% from the first quarter of 2021. It’s estimated that in 2023, nationwide doctors are writing 100,000 new prescriptions every week. In reality, the shortage is the result of a combination of extremely high demand and global supply issues. The manufacturer cannot keep up.
How Will the Wegovy and Ozempic Shortage Be Resolved?
Novo Nordisk is taking steps to increase its manufacturing capacity and resolve the supply chain disruptions. These measures include:
1. Adding a new manufacturing facility in the United States.
2. Increasing production at existing manufacturing facilities.
3. Securing additional supplies of raw materials and components.
Novo Nordisk expects to have Wegovy production levels meeting demand by September 2023. However, it is possible that the shortage could last longer than this.
In addition, Novo Nordisk reports that they are pausing some key Wegovy® promotional efforts to avoid stimulating further demand. In addition, Novo Nordisk will closely manage Wegovy® shipments to wholesalers in the U.S. with a plan to create a more steady level of inventory, despite supply constraints.
The Wegovy shortage is a reminder of the importance of having a reliable supply of essential medications. Obesity is a serious health problem, and it is important to have treatments that can help people lose weight and improve their health.
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Who Can Get Wegovy Right Now?
In an effort to continue to service the customers who rely on Wegovy for the management of their type-2 diabetes, Novo Nordisk has focused production on the 1.7 mg and 2.4 mg doses.
Novo Nordisk also said that it is “working with healthcare providers to help patients who are currently taking Wegovy to continue their treatment.” The company said that it is “providing information and resources to help patients find Wegovy and understand their options.” On the Novo Nordisk website, they issue regular updates explaining their position:
“While we are actively producing and shipping all dose strengths of Wegovy® and have taken significant measures to increase capacity, we will only be able to supply limited quantities of 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, and 1 mg dose strengths to wholesalers for distribution to retail pharmacies which will not meet anticipated patient demand. We anticipate that many patients will have difficulty filling Wegovy® prescriptions at these doses through September.
We do not currently anticipate supply interruptions of the 1.7 mg and 2.4 mg dose strengths of Wegovy®.”
What Does This Mean?
If you’re just starting Wegovy, your prescription will be started at the lowest dosage and increased gradually depending on your response. Basically what this means is that Novo Nordisk isn’t currently working on producing these lower-level doses, which is why so many people who have new prescriptions cannot get it.
The Impact on Patients
The Wegovy shortage is a major challenge for patients who are trying to lose weight. Wegovy is one of the most effective weight-loss drugs available, and its shortage has made it more difficult for people to achieve their weight-loss goals.
Patients who are unable to get Wegovy may need to consider other weight loss prescriptions such as Saxenda and Metformin. There are many online weight-loss companies that can create a holistic approach to weight loss that includes helping you get a different medication.
The Wegovy shortage is a reminder of the importance of having access to effective weight-loss medications. Obesity is a serious health problem, and it is important to have treatments that can help people lose weight and improve their health.
What About Generic Semaglutide
There is currently no generic form of Semaglutide. Many health and wellness spas have advertised generic semaglutide injections. This is a formula created by a compounding pharmacy that takes small amounts of the original ingredient, or versions of the ingredient, and combines it with other ingredients. This process is not transparent and it can be very difficult to determine what is in the formulation.
According to the FDA, patients should be aware that some products sold as ‘semaglutide’ may not contain the same active ingredient as FDA-approved semaglutide products and may be the salt formulations. Products containing these salts, such as semaglutide sodium and semaglutide acetate, have not been shown to be safe and effective.
In a June 2023 press release, Novo Nordisk began the process of filing lawsuits against health and wellness spas that are promoting generic forms of Semaglutide, and the compounding pharmacies producing them.
When Will Wegovy Go Generic?
According to DrugPatentWatch.com, Wegovy was eligible for patent challenges on December 5, 2021. By analyzing the patents and regulatory protections it appears that the earliest date for generic entry will be December 5, 2031. This may change due to patent challenges or generic licensing. It’s possible that a generic version of Wegovy could be available sooner if a patent challenge is successful.
The current Wegovy shortage is driven mainly by the radical increase of prescriptions. Wegovy is actively working to increase production, but it is expected that the shortage will continue until the end of September 2023. There is no generic version of Wegovy and a generic version isn’t expected to be available until December 2031.
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