ABILENE, Texas — Ozempic, an injectable drug used to control high blood sugar, is a helpful tool for type 2 diabetics - but one of the side effects of the drug has caused viral interest beyond just those with diabetes, creating skyrocketing demand nationwide and here in Abilene.
"One of the things that happens is that people who use it do lose weight. and that generally, in diabetics, can be a good thing because a lot of times being overweight can lead to diabetes or be a factor in that," said Jason Heuerman, a pharmacist at James McCoy's Drug Store. "They found that it also causes the weight loss, so now it's being used off-label for weight loss."
A similar drug - Wegovy - is FDA approved specifically for weight loss. Demand and shortages of that drug have caused an increase in off-label use for Ozempic. Now pharmacies are facing shortages.
"It's kind of a rotating shortage, some days one strengths out, some day the other strengths out, but yes, it is very hard to get," said Heuerman. "The one that is indicated for weight loss has been very hard to get for quite some time now, so that's why a lot of people are kind of filtering into the other ones and using the other off-label products because they work, but that's causing the shortage, and so it's really frustrating because a lot of diabetics that are relying on this product to keep their blood sugars down, they can't get it."
Heuerman says there are options for diabetics struggling to find the drug.
"We can work with physicians and try and come up with maybe a different dose and work a little bit with the doses that are available and see if we can make something happen, maybe even change to a different product that is available," he said. "We're seeing a lot of that happen. So there are options, there are ways that we can work around it and still keep the patients healthy."
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