ROCHESTER, NY — More than 35 million Americans are living with type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And with the New Year, weight loss goals have created a shortage of certain diabetes medications.
Ozempic, a diabetes drug that can help people lose weight, is facing shortages.
“It’s for people with diabetes to help lower blood sugar, help prevent complications that can be related to your eyes, kidneys, blood circulation and, again, heart attack and stroke risk,” said Sally Nordquist, a certified diabetes nurse educator.
Due to celebrity and social media hype, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find, appearing in videos with more than 313 million views on platforms such as TikTok.
“It’s being used by people who don’t have that diagnosis, you’re just taking away the supply from people who need it for their own health,” Nordquist said. “And I’m not discounting weight loss, but if you have diabetes, you have other conditions that go along with it. So you’re taking away what’s good for them.”
That leaves many other alternatives that are either not covered by their insurance or out of stock.
“If you don’t have access to medication, then you have to figure out which one is available,” said endocrinologist Dr. Susanne Miedlich. “Then you need to order that if you have very motivated patients, they really go to different pharmacies, and sometimes you can be lucky, but you add a lot to the patient’s table. And if they have diabetes, if they are not on medication, of course they will have a high sugar limit, to say the least.
While the drug itself may not cause harm, the supply of it does.
“I don’t see that it was necessarily harmful to the patients who were taking it,” said Dr. Miedlich. “But I think as usual, it hits the wrong people when there’s a shortage because they can’t defend themselves. It becomes this kind of designer drug or feel-good drug.
Medical professionals should emphasize the importance of educating others about proper diagnosis before taking prescribed medications.
“I think the biggest part is being aware of your health or your risk factors,” Nordquist said. “Talk to your family, find out who has what, and see your primary care physician. And if you’re diagnosed with a chronic condition, take advantage of the education available in the community.
Monitoring and managing diabetes can be a daily task and, if done correctly, can save lives.
“I’m at risk and my kids are at risk because their father has diabetes,” Nordquist said. “But it just helps because with my dad we were able to delay the progression of his kidney disease for eight years, which is huge. And that was just because he changed, he was more aware and he had me helping him. So without support it cannot be done.”