Burning the Darkness

Better Obesity Meds, Murky Supply and Access

One of the themes you will hear when ObesityWeek gets underway tomorrow in San Diego is the dramatic progress that’s coming into view with new obesity drugs. But the picture quickly becomes murky in the real world because of issues with supply and access to these new and improved obesity meds. The access to care issues are nothing new in obesity. But the supply issues are really puzzling.

Soon after the launch of Wegovy in the U.S., it became apparent that Novo Nordisk was having trouble supplying Wegovy for obesity.

Despite Assurances, No End in Sight

Back then, the story was that this was just a temporary thing. Supply chains for many types of products were scrambled, so we just shrugged and accepted assurances that everything would be OK by the second half of 2022.

We’re winding down the year now and an end to this supply debacle is not yet in sight. In fact, we might argue that it’s a bit worse. That’s because the supply of Ozempic (for diabetes), as well as Wegovy, has become an issue. Ozempic has the same active ingredient – semaglutide – as Wegovy, but at a lower dose. Novo Nordisk isn’t offering a lot of new information on the status of this problem. It seems like mum is the word.

Adding in Some Sensationalism

Stories of people who might not need this drug for diabetes are picking up speed on social media with sensationalism from Hollywood and other celebrities. Quite frankly, it’s becoming irresponsible – even by Hollywood’s rather loose standards. FOMO means that Elon Musk feels compelled to get in on this stupidity. At this point, reports from Australia suggest that Ozempic is not available there for many people who need it to treat type 2 diabetes. Press reports throw shade at people who need it for obesity – without considering the fact that their needs might quite pressing.

Wegovy has been approved in the UK, but not yet launched. Issues with an adequate supply of semaglutide for diabetes are a problem there, too. Here in the U.S., FDA lists both Wegovy and Ozempic as being in a shortage situation.

A Debacle for Everyone

Let’s be frank. The short supply of these new and improved obesity meds is bad for everyone. Medical needs are going unmet. Everyone is missing opportunities for better health – both to provide it and to enjoy it.

Obesity medicine physician Caroline Apovian tells us that she has patients with dire needs for semaglutide who simply cannot get it – in part because of supply issues, in part because of health insurance throwing up roadblocks.

A year after it started, we find this situation to be profoundly disappointing and hope that Novo Nordisk will be more transparent and efficient going forward to clear up the mess they find themselves in.

Breakthrough drugs don’t benefit people who can’t get them.

For more on these shortages, click here, here, and here.

Burning the Darkness, painting by Nicholas Roerich / WikiArt

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October 31, 2022