Semaglutide Shortages Linked to TikTok Weight Loss Trend

Semaglutide Shortages Linked to TikTok Weight Loss Trend

  • A diabetes drug is in short supply in Australia after interest spiked for off-label use to aid weight loss.
  • Called semaglutide, it treats diabetes by boosting insulin, but also suppresses appetite.
  • The medication requires once-weekly injections to continue working, and shortages may continue through 2022.

Australia is facing a national shortage of a


diabetes

drug as a growing number of people are using it for the off-label purpose of


weight-loss

according to News.com.au.

Semaglutide, a medication developed to treat


type 2 diabetes

by increasing insulin production, has made waves as a “game changer” for weight loss as research suggests it helps suppress appetite, leading to more weight loss than a placebo.

The FDA approved semaglutide as an obesity treatment for Americans in June 2021, prompting a spike in consumer demand. In late 2021, Novo Nordisk, the Danish company producing the medication, announced that it was unable to manufacture enough semaglutide to fill some prescriptions. The company has said shortages will likely continue until the second half of 2022.

Although semaglutide is not yet approved to treat obesity in Australia, the social media app TikTok has helped drive a trend in people requesting the drug for weight loss, News.com.au reported.

Users have posted anecdotes about losing weight and having a reduced appetite after starting the once-weekly injections, in some cases incorrectly implying that weight loss can be maintained without continuing to take the drug. Research suggests that to keep the weight off, people need to continue taking semaglutide.

The heightened demand for semaglutide and resulting shortages prompted several Australian health organizations to issue a joint statement urging doctors to limit prescriptions to the intended use of treating type 2 diabetes.

Supplies of semaglutide should be prioritized for its “essential” use to treat diabetes, and people with prescriptions should fill them early, according to the statement.

But shortages aren’t the only controversy for semaglutide. Obesity experts have also expressed concern about insurance and cost disparities for the drug, the New York Times reported.

Semaglutide has been listed at a premium price of $1,349 for a month’s supply for obesity treatment, compared to the listing of $892 for the same dose and amount to treat diabetes, Ted Kyle, an obesity healthcare professional, noted on his blog ConscienHealth.

Some registered dietitians have also questioned the potential long term consequences of the medication, including continued weight stigma linked to worse health outcomes in higher-weight people, Rachael Hartley, a registered dietitian who specializes in intuitive eating, previously told Insider.

“There’s an assumption that if you’re higher weight, you’re doing something wrong, and frankly that’s not true,” she said. “Body diversity naturally exists.”

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