Pharmacists told to prioritise diabetic patients for Ozempic weight-loss jab

Obese patients who do not have diabetes may lose out, depending on supply

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Eilish O'Regan

Pharmacists have been told to prioritise patients with uncontrolled diabetes over those with obesity-only for the so-called “miracle” weight-loss jab Ozempic, due to shortages.

It means that obese patients prescribed the once-a-week injection, who do not have diabetes, may lose out, depending on supply.

The issue was raised by pharmacist Sheena Mitchell, who runs Milltown Totalhealth pharmacy in Dublin, after a circular from the profession’s regulatory body, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland.

Currently, Ozempic, which is used to curb appetite, has been approved only to treat Type-2 diabetes. But demand by patients with obesity who are prescribed the drug off-label is contributing to intermittent shortages.

Ms Mitchell said: “It’s clear that the shortages of Ozempic are causing significant stress for all patient types with this prescription. Diabetes and weight loss are intrinsically linked. The higher your body mass index, the higher your risk of developing Type-2 diabetes.

“Failure to support patients adequately and holistically with obesity will cause a pharmacoeconomic crisis in our country, while the societal and human impact will be crushing.”

I feel like a drug dealer looking for a fix

She described how one patient said: “I’m ringing around pharmacies looking to see if I can find someone to fill my prescription. I feel like a drug dealer looking for a fix. My pharmacy won’t give me Ozempic anymore because I’m not diabetic.”

In the circular to pharmacists, the regulator reminded them how they are bound by EU Commission regulations regarding the condition for which the medication is approved.

It advised pharmacists to “inform patients using Ozempic of the intermittent supply issues to help minimise disruption to their treatment and to prompt conversation with their prescriber about their ongoing treatment”.

It also told them to “inform patients who present with a new prescription for Ozempic of the intermittent supply issue and the possibility of not receiving the medicine during this shortage period, and encourage the patient to speak to their prescriber for advice. Pharmacists may also need to liaise with prescribers directly,” it added.

Ms Mitchell called for the go-ahead to be given for Wegovy, which is specifically indicated for treatment for those who are overweight or obese.

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