Ozempic prescriptions can be easy to get online. Its popularity for weight loss is hurting those who need it most

Ozempic is a prescription drug that treats Type 2 diabetes. The current drug shortage has limited access for patients with diabetes who rely on it to control their blood sugar.

Ozempic prescriptions can be easy to get online. Its popularity for weight loss is hurting those who need it most


Experts told CNN that telehealth and social media played a major role in driving demand Ozempic, a prescription medication for Type 2 diabetes. Patients with Type 2 diabetes who depend on the drug to manage their blood sugar levels are limited by the current drug shortage.

Online prescriptions are made possible by digital health companies, which make it easier for patients to access medications such as Ozempic. Many companies advertise fast and easy access, sometimes even same-day.

"Anecdotally it's almost simpler to get medication [via online health companies]," said Dr. Disha Nrang, an endocrinologist who is also the director of obesity medicine at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. "But it's not always the most secure. CNN reported that people who entered average weights on the online intake forms were still eligible for the anti-diabetic drug.

MarketData Enterprises, an independent market research consulting firm, says that the market for prescription weight loss drugs has seen significant growth partly due to Ozempic's popularity. Market forecasters had high expectations for 2022, and the market is projected to grow to nearly $2 billion by 2023.

WeightWatchers also has a presence in the telehealth prescription drug market. The company purchased Sequence, a telehealth subscription service that connects patients with doctors who can prescribe diabetes and weight loss drugs, last week.

Narang stated that these companies were not marketing the stuff at the beginning of 2022. He also noted that Ozempic advertising took off in 2022. "I believe we need to question our ethics around this.

According to CNN, there are very few requirements for digital health companies' intake process. Dr. Bree Holtz is an associate professor at Michigan State University who studies telemedicine. Once the patient has completed the necessary forms online, the information is transferred to an in-state doctor who can write the prescription. Some companies require that patients make a video call or phone call to the provider, while others do not.

Holtz stated, "It's a little frightening that you can just wake-up and get these appointments -- or these drugs -- and it's not being cared for."

Telehealth has made it possible to provide access to healthcare, especially during the pandemic. Telehealth can be a great option for those who live in areas where primary care is scarce.

Buis warns that patients who seek treatment from selected providers can be vulnerable to abuse or fragmentation of care. Telehealth providers may not be able to access a patient's complete medical history, and may not be able to provide holistic healthcare as a primary physician would.

Buis stated that he has no doubt that some services are doing a great job. There are other services that don’t take it as seriously. That's a concern.

Popularity of Ozempic

Ozempic ran out of stock in August, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. According to the FDA database of drug shortages, supply will be limited through mid-March.

According to a J.P. Morgan analysis, over 373,000 prescriptions were filled in the US in the week ending February 1, according to CNN. This is an 111% increase compared to the same week 2022.

According to a CNN review, more than half of these were new prescriptions.

Providers like Narang are trying to find alternatives for patients who rely on Ozempic to treat diabetes.

Narang stated that he receives daily messages from patients about patients not being allowed to obtain their medication. It's been difficult for both patients and providers.

According to J.P. Morgan analysis, Ozempic holds over 40% of the US market for glucagon-like protein 1 (GLP-1) agonists. This class of drugs mimics an appetite-regulatinghormone. These drugs stimulate insulin release, which lowers blood sugar. They can also slow down the movement of food through the stomach.

Since its debut on the market in 2018, Ozempic's popularity has grown rapidly. Narang said that the drug has been successfully used safely to treat diabetes and put it in remission. Ozempic is one of the most powerful GLP-1 drugs, she stated.

The medication semaglutide is behind the brand Ozempic. Ozempic can be used to treat Type 2 Diabetes, but a different drug called Wegovy, also known as semaglutide, has been approved for chronic weight management.

Narang stated that although Wegovy was approved by FDA in 2021 it was not available throughout most of the last year. Therefore, people turned to Ozempic. According to the FDA database of drug shortages, Wegovy was in short supply at the beginning of March last year but returned to stock much earlier this year.

The social media buzz surrounding the drugs exploded at the beginning of 2023. Celebrities shared their stories about how semaglutide helped to lose weight. Ozempic, Wegovy, and Elon Musk were publicly credited for their weight loss.

According to company analytics, #Ozempic has been "extremely popular" over the past few months on TikTok.

Narang stated that the use of Wegovy and Ozempic for short-term weight loss has had real consequences for patients who most need them for chronic weight management and diabetes treatment. Some insurance companies have refused to cover Wegovy in the past, one calling it a "vanity drug."

These drugs are not intended to be used for weight loss, but for long-term treatment. After stopping taking the drugs, their appetite-regulating properties quickly wear off.

This is not meant as a way to lose the last five to ten pounds in order to prepare for an event. It is not meant to be used for more than three or four weeks. "We think about weight management in terms of the next 25 years of someone’s life.