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The TikTok Trend That Triggered a Diabetes Drug Shortage


Nov. 29, 2022 – Weight reduction recommendation is all over the place you look on social media, however one pattern sweeping TikTok has led to shortages of an essential diabetes drug. 

Ozempic, a weekly injection that helps increase insulin sensitivity in individuals with sort 2 diabetes, additionally suppresses urge for food, which ends up in weight reduction. Tales of celebrities utilizing the drug off-label to lose a number of kilos have led to an explosion of curiosity. And now individuals with diabetes – individuals whose lives may very well be saved by the drug – are having hassle 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 saved secret in Hollywood – particularly on condition that its most enthusiastic customers usually are 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 usually occurs, high-profile use sparked a pattern. Movies on TikTok hashtagged #ozempic have amassed greater than 275 million views, and #ozempicweightloss has greater than 110 million.

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

“Forty-two % of Individuals have weight problems, and much more have obese. That’s affecting our youthful individuals and our adolescents,” says Caroline Apovian, MD, co-director of the Heart for Weight Administration and Wellness on the Brigham and Girls’s Hospital in Boston. “They’re taking a look at TikTok and different social media retailers for assist.”

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

At Final, an Efficient Weight Loss Drug

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

The FDA authorised Ozempic to deal with individuals with sort 2 diabetes in 2017. 4 years later, Novo Nordisk acquired the inexperienced mild for a higher-dose model meant particularly for individuals with weight problems. Wegovy is authorised to be used solely when you have a BMI of not less than 27 with a number of weight-related illnesses, or a BMI of 30 or extra with none.

“These medication are dominating my apply, as a result of they’re so efficient,” says Amanda Velazquez, MD, director of weight problems drugs at Cedars-Sinai Medical Heart in Los Angeles. The drug is taken into account protected, “so the vast majority 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 individuals to hunt out the medication. Now demand is outpacing the availability – in response to the FDA, starter doses of Ozempic can have restricted availability by way of January. 

“In Hollywood, persons 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 enormous demand, Wegovy additionally had a disruption in its provide chain. Proper now, it isn’t accessible 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 top of the 12 months, with distribution following quickly after.

The Worth of Entry

With an inventory value of $1,350 a month, Wegovy prices as a lot as many mortgages. And Medicaid, Medicare, and plenty of insurance coverage firms 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 when you may discover the drug, you won’t be capable of afford it. 

“We’re seeing that roughly half the prescriptions we write aren’t being coated,” Apovian says. “And for the half which might be coated, we now have to do prior authorization, which takes days, and it’s laborious.” In some cases, she says, insurance coverage firms 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 anticipate it to remain off, both. The medicine requires an actual dedication, doubtlessly 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, individuals regained two-thirds of the load they’d misplaced inside a 12 months of stopping.

Many see a double normal within the insurance coverage firms’ refusal to cowl a drug that might stop severe sickness or loss of life. 

“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 Facet Results

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

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


Elise Davenport was excited to strive Wegovy. “I did my on-line analysis. I’m the kind who’s considering early adoption, tech devices and stuff,” says the 40-year-old technical author. “I needed to strive 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 a web based program that assured insurance coverage protection and began taking it in October 2021. At first, the unintended effects had been delicate, only a contact of nausea and diarrhea. And the outcomes had been spectacular. She discovered it straightforward to really feel happy with smaller parts and misplaced her cravings for sugar and extremely processed meals. The burden 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 unintended effects had been ramping up. Due to shortages in decrease dosages, the web program wasn’t capable of regulate hers instantly. She felt nauseated on a regular basis, dangerous sufficient that brushing her enamel made her vomit and he or she needed to pressure herself to eat. Some weeks, she managed lower than 500 energy a day. Her sleep patterns turned erratic. After which her melancholy, which medicine had saved below management for years, spiraled.

“I keep in mind sitting on the ground of my lavatory crying, pondering I’d moderately carry the additional weight,” she says. “I used to take a whole lot of enjoyment from meals, and I had none of that anymore. It was such a joyless expertise at that time.” 

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

Extra Than Simply Weight Loss

Regardless that Davenport’s expertise wasn’t an excellent one, with higher monitoring, she’d be prepared to strive once more. For one factor, seeing how straightforward 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 noticed I’d been made to really feel that means by medical doctors and packages – that I wasn’t doing sufficient,” she says. “This drug made me understand there are legit physiological issues occurring in my physique, issues which might be usually excluded from the dialog.”

Apovian and Velazquez say their sufferers recurrently uncover comparable issues.

“Weight problems isn’t a illness of willpower. Medicines usually are not the straightforward means 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 medicine for people coming in with hypertension, inform them to work on willpower and withhold medication they’d qualify for.”


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