The diabetes medication Ozempic is sold out in many pharmacies throughout Portugal because it is being used for cosmetic weight loss purposes, along with another diabetes medication.
Two pharmaceuticals that were created to help with type 2 diabetes, semaglutide and dulaglutide, are increasingly being prescribed and sold to people who do not have the disease but want to lose weight.
In more recent years, studies and reports have shown the efficacy of the two drugs in helping with weight loss. As a result, the number of off-label prescriptions (those given to non-diabetics) increased exponentially.
The speed, and ease, with which the drugs act on the body are the major reason for the adherence. By using the injectable pen to lose weight, individuals can see results much faster, whilst not having to force their diet that much.
It is relevant to note that apart from the supposed efficacy of the medications, for the time being, in Portugal, there is no drug for weight loss that is partially reimbursed by the state.
So, anyone who wants to resort to pharmaceuticals to lose weight will have to pay their full price. Unless the person is able to get an off-label prescription for the diabetes medications. Because they are what they are, the Portuguese authorities make them 10 times cheaper than what they actually were.
The unsustainable and unexpected surge of the demand for these two drugs led to a break of stock that is leading diabetics to search for alternatives. In Portugal, many pharmacies report that the quantities sent by manufacturers are not enough. There are more and more people wanting to use the medication, and less quantity of it available.
In some places, there are already waiting lists that, of course, shall prioritize those who actually suffer from diabetes.
This problem is not new. The shortage of semaglutide (Ozempic) was reported last year, and was expected to end this year. However, it remains. There is neither a decrease of the demand nor an increase of the supply.
According to the relevant authorities, the manufacturing laboratories do not signal the pharmaceuticals as being out of stock and are not doing what they should to solve the shortage issue.
When it comes to off-label prescriptions and the somewhat newly found cosmetic use for the medications, the general population should be more aware of the possible side effects. According to more recent studies, these drugs can have very serious gastrointestinal side effects, including inflammation in the pancreas and obstructions of the digestive system.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already asked the manufacturers to include a warning label about the risk of intestinal blockage. If there is clear information stating that the risk is bigger than the reward, especially for those who do not suffer from diabetes, maybe there can be a decrease in the demand.