New TikTok trend may be behind diabetes drug shortage

Health

This photo provided by Novo Nordisk Inc. shows its Tresiba brand insulin. On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, Novo Nordisk announced a new program offering free insulin for at least three months months for diabetes patients who have lost their insurance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Novo Nordisk Inc. via AP)

(NewsNation) — A new TikTok trend is believed to be behind the current diabetes medicine shortage, as the FDA reports Ozempic — which is used to treat Type 2 diabetes — is in short supply.

Hashtags #ozempic and #ozempicweightloss have more than 300 million views and counting on TikTok, and Google searches for “Ozempic” spiked to an all-time high one week after the 2022 Met Gala.

Reports have since come out discussing whether social media influencers and celebrities have been using the drug to slim down, and thereby fueling the shortage.

“I worry more that people who do not have obesity or diabetes are buying semaglutide (which is sold under the brand names Wegovy and Ozempic, among others) at its out-of-pocket cost to get skinnier, likely stirred on by TikTok videos or Variety articles,” Dr. Beverly Tchang, an endocrinologist and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, told Everyday Health in an October interview.

While made to improve blood sugar levels and heart function for diabetics, Ozempic also reduces the appetite for nondiabetic users, resulting in rapid weight loss.

Even Elon Musk, who has 120 million followers on Twitter, was promoting the drug, tweeting, “Down 30 lbs! Fasting + Ozempic/Wegovy + no tasty food near me” on Nov. 16.

“This is a diabetic medicine, but it is different than insulin,” Dr. Stephen Ramirez said on KENS 5 Tuesday. “Whenever you eat, your intestines expand and secrete a certain hormone that makes your body feel full. This medicine makes you feel full all the time.”

Now that these drugs are popular with the general public, the ones who need them most are being affected — diabetics who already have to deal with high drug prices.

A one-month supply of Mounjaro — another drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes — costs about $1,200 out-of-pocket. Ozempic costs about $875 per month, Ramirez told KENS 5.

For those who do not have diabetes, taking Ozempic for weight loss can be harmful.

Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, an internal medicine specialist, said in an October interview on “CUOMO” that the new diet craze can be “very dangerous” if people don’t carefully consider side effects and confer with their physicians.

“The main concern is that a lot of people are going to physicians that are not checking them correctly,” Rodriguez said. “Listen, you have to qualify. You have to be what is technically an obese body mass index of over 30. Or you have to have a body mass index over 27 and have either heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol … in other words, you’re at a high risk.”

The diabetes drugs may cause serious side effects:

  • Inflammation of your pancreas
  • Changes in vision
  • Low blood sugar
  • Kidney problems
  • Serious allergic reactions
  • Gall bladder problems

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