CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A drug intended to treat Type 2 diabetes is flying off the shelves for a controversial reason.
A spike in demand for prescription injection Ozempic and its sister medication Wegovy comes after recent social media postings regarding their ability to help aid in weight loss.
While ‘get thin fast’ remedies are nothing new to the social media sphere, these weekly injections have been dubbed ‘skinny pens’ by TikTok users and have led to a short supply of the products in pharmacies. When Queen City News went to Queens Pharmacy in Elizabeth Monday, they had the drugs in stock, but they said that’s not always the case.
“There is a shortage, so on and off, we’ve had trouble,” said Pharmacist Harsh Patel.
Ozempic and Wegovy are semaglutides or medicines that can curb appetite to treat Type 2 Diabetes and obesity.
Wegovy has gotten FDA approval to be a weight loss drug, but only for those with BMIs greater than 30 or BMIs greater than 27 coexisting with another weight-related medical problem.
Ozempic is only approved to treat type 2 diabetes, but that hasn’t stopped people from getting prescriptions.
“Right now, we are in a consumer-driven healthcare where it is very important to please the patient and make sure their needs are satisfied,” said Patel. “If a patient is going to go to a doctor’s office and demand a weight loss medicine, most doctors don’t have a problem prescribing it.”
These drugs notably spiked in popularity after rumors circulated about celebrity usage.
Elon Musk tweeted that he used Wegovy to aid his recent weight loss. TV Host Jeremy Clarkson credited Ozempic for his recent weight loss in a Sunday Times article titled, ‘I’ve had a magic jab, and my giant gut’s already shrinking.’
But medical professionals warn against using these injections for shedding just a few pounds, as they aren’t without their side effects. Aside from stomach pain and diarrhea, both medications warn about possible thyroid tumors, pancreatitis, low blood sugar, and kidney failure.
“Just by looking at TikTok and Instagram and saying, ‘Hey, I need to lose a couple of pounds here and there,’ no,” said Patel when asked if he would recommend the medication. “If you consult with a doctor and the doctor is of the opinion that you need this medication, you are at a BMI where being obese is a risk to your health, then yes. Talk to your doctor.”
In a statement from Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, a spokesperson acknowledged their limited supply.
“While we recognize that some healthcare providers may be prescribing Ozempic for patients whose goal is to lose weight, Novo Nordisk does not promote, suggest, or encourage off-label use of our medicines,” the company stated
They also noted that Ozempic and Wegovy are not interchangeable, as they come with different dosages, indications, prescribing information, and titration schedules.