The TikTok Trend That Triggered a Diabetes Drug Shortage


Nov. 29, 2022 – Weight reduction recommendation is in every single place you look on social media, however one development sweeping TikTok has led to shortages of an vital diabetes drug. 

Ozempic, a weekly injection that helps enhance insulin sensitivity in folks with sort 2 diabetes, additionally suppresses urge for food, which results in weight reduction. Tales of celebrities utilizing the drug off-label to lose a couple of kilos have led to an explosion of curiosity. And now folks with diabetes – folks whose lives might be saved by the drug – are having bother discovering it.

Kim Kardashian and Elon Musk

Within the spring, Kim Kardashian pulled off a dramatic weight reduction to suit into Marilyn Monroe’s costume for the Met Gala. Quickly rumors started to flow into that she’d used Ozempic to do it. Simply this week, new Twitter proprietor Elon Musk tweeted about his own use of Ozempic and its sibling drug, Wegovy.

Selection dubbed Ozempic “the worst stored secret in Hollywood – particularly provided that its most enthusiastic customers should not pre-diabetic and don’t require the drug.” The wealthy and well-known are spending $1,200 to $1,500 a month to get entry. 

As so typically occurs, high-profile use sparked a development. Movies on TikTok hashtagged #ozempic have amassed greater than 275 million views, and #ozempicweightloss has greater than 110 million.

This raises issues about who, precisely, is watching these movies, and what message they’re receiving.

“Forty-two p.c of Individuals have weight problems, and much more have chubby. That’s affecting our youthful folks and our adolescents,” says Caroline Apovian, MD, co-director of the Middle for Weight Administration and Wellness on the Brigham and Ladies’s Hospital in Boston. “They’re taking a look at TikTok and different social media shops for assist.”

A brand new examine exhibits how damaging this may be: Researchers analyzed 1,000 movies with vitamin, meals, and weight-related hashtags, with over 1 billion views mixed. They discovered that just about all included messages glorifying weight reduction and thinness.

At Final, an Efficient Weight Loss Drug

Ozempic is Danish drug firm Novo Nordisk’s model title for semaglutide, which works by mimicking a naturally occurring hormone often called GLP-1. It travels to your mind and helps you’re feeling full on much less meals. That results in weight reduction. In a single 68-week examine, semaglutide helped folks lose a median of 15% of their physique weight. Nevertheless it’s not a miracle drug: You continue to have to alter your consuming habits and keep bodily energetic.

The FDA accredited Ozempic to deal with folks with sort 2 diabetes in 2017. 4 years later, Novo Nordisk obtained the inexperienced mild for a higher-dose model meant particularly for folks with weight problems. Wegovy is accredited to be used solely when you have a BMI of no less than 27 with a number of weight-related illnesses, or a BMI of 30 or extra with none.

“These medicine are dominating my observe, as a result of they’re so efficient,” says Amanda Velazquez, MD, director of weight problems drugs at Cedars-Sinai Medical Middle in Los Angeles. The drug is taken into account secure, “so nearly all of sufferers are good candidates.”

Extra Demand Than Provide

As phrase unfold about how properly Ozempic and Wegovy labored, social media posts helped drive much more folks to hunt out the medicine. Now demand is outpacing the availability – in accordance with the FDA, starter doses of Ozempic may have restricted availability by means of January. 

“In Hollywood, individuals are shedding 10 kilos, getting it for $1,500 a month, and depleting shops for individuals who have such extreme weight problems that they’ve congestive coronary heart failure and diabetes,” Apovian says. “These are people who find themselves going to die, and you are taking it away only for beauty weight reduction. That’s deplorable.”

Along with large demand, Wegovy additionally had a disruption in its provide chain. Proper now, it isn’t out there in any respect in decrease doses, which helps to spike off-label demand for Ozempic. Novo Nordisk expects to have these issues sorted out by the tip of the yr, with distribution following quickly after.

The Value of Entry

With a listing value of $1,350 a month, Wegovy prices as a lot as many mortgages. And Medicaid, Medicare, and plenty of insurance coverage corporations don’t cowl it. Though weight problems is a illness, the insurance coverage trade treats weight reduction as extra of an arrogance difficulty – so even for those who might discover the drug, you may not be capable of afford it. 

“We’re seeing that roughly half the prescriptions we write aren’t being lined,” Apovian says. “And for the half which might be lined, we have now to do prior authorization, which takes days, and it’s laborious.” In some situations, she says, insurance coverage corporations withdraw authorization after 3 months in the event that they don’t see sufficient weight coming off.

It’s not like you’ll be able to take Wegovy for 3 months, lose some weight, and count on it to remain off, both. The treatment requires an actual dedication, probably for all times. That’s as a result of as soon as the semaglutide leaves your system, your urge for food returns. In a single examine, folks regained two-thirds of the load they’d misplaced inside a yr of stopping.

Many see a double customary within the insurance coverage corporations’ refusal to cowl a drug that would forestall severe sickness or dying. 

“They’re saying it’s not cost-effective to offer the 42% of Individuals who’ve a BMI over 30 Wegovy. Did they are saying this when statins got here out?” Apovian says. “Why are they doing this with antiobesity brokers? It’s the tradition. The tradition isn’t able to undertake weight problems because the illness that it’s.”

Disagreeable Aspect Results

Let’s assume you’re one of many fortunate ones – your insurance coverage covers Wegovy, and you may truly discover some. You may uncover that utilizing it’s no stroll within the park. Widespread uncomfortable side effects embrace gastrointestinal points like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

“The way in which we counteract that’s to begin very slowly at a low dose of those medicines,” Apovian says. “We solely go up when the affected person doesn’t have nausea or it will get higher.”


Elise Davenport was excited to attempt Wegovy. “I did my on-line analysis. I’m the kind who’s serious about early adoption, tech devices and stuff,” says the 40-year-old technical author. “I wished to attempt it as a result of I’d tried so many different issues that failed, or hadn’t labored long-term.”

With a BMI over 30, Davenport certified for the drug. She signed up for an internet program that assured insurance coverage protection and began taking it in October 2021. At first, the uncomfortable side effects had been gentle, only a contact of nausea and diarrhea. And the outcomes had been spectacular. She discovered it simple to really feel happy with smaller parts and misplaced her cravings for sugar and extremely processed meals. The load fell off, roughly 5 kilos per week. 

It seems, that’s an excessive amount of, too quick. Apovian and Velazquez say their sufferers lose extra like 2 kilos every week, with cautious monitoring. 

By early December, Davenport’s uncomfortable side effects had been ramping up. Due to shortages in decrease dosages, the web program wasn’t in a position to alter hers instantly. She felt nauseated on a regular basis, dangerous sufficient that brushing her tooth made her vomit and she or he needed to pressure herself to eat. Some weeks, she managed lower than 500 energy a day. Her sleep patterns turned erratic. After which her despair, which treatment had stored below management for years, spiraled.

“I bear in mind sitting on the ground of my rest room crying, considering I’d slightly carry the additional weight,” she says. “I used to take a variety of enjoyment from meals, and I had none of that anymore. It was such a joyless expertise at that time.” 

Finally, her dosage was diminished and the signs let up, however her major care physician inspired her to cease. By the point she did, in March, she’d misplaced 55 kilos. To this point, she’s gained again about 10.

Extra Than Simply Weight Loss

Though Davenport’s expertise wasn’t a great one, with higher monitoring, she’d be keen to attempt once more. For one factor, seeing how simple it was to eat much less with medical assist helped to undo years of disgrace.

“Our tradition treats weight problems like an ethical failing. I spotted I’d been made to really feel that manner by medical doctors and packages – that I wasn’t doing sufficient,” she says. “This drug made me notice there are legit physiological issues happening in my physique, issues which might be typically excluded from the dialog.”

Apovian and Velazquez say their sufferers usually uncover related issues.

“Weight problems isn’t a illness of willpower. Medicines should not the straightforward manner out,” Velazquez says. “This can be a power, relapsing medical situation, and due to that, we must always deal with it how we deal with diabetes, hypertension, all these different circumstances. We’d by no means maintain again treatment for people coming in with hypertension, inform them to work on willpower and withhold medicine they’d qualify for.”


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