Popularity of diabetes, weight-loss drug causing shortage

Jan. 24—Pharmacies are experiencing a high demand for some diabetes medications due to their increasing popularity as weight-loss drugs.

The demand for medications like Ozempic has made maintaining a supply a weekly concern.

It's a difficult balancing act, said Kayla McLinn, a registered pharmacist at Stevenson Family Pharmacy.

"When I have to tell someone like that, that we can't get any ... certain medication and stuff for them, it's very hard because they're very worried that's going to affect their health. And it's terrible, it — you know — hurts my heart."

People can end up having to wait weeks to get the prescription they need, or sometimes they're sent to another pharmacy that might have the drug in stock, McLinn said. That raises its own considerations, she said, since one pharmacy won't know what's in stock at another.

The question often becomes whether patients are willing to change to a different medicine, McLinn said.

"We had to do a lot of adjustments of medications, calling doctors and all of that," she said. "I think it was hard for those individuals who were using it to treat diabetes. As of right now, we're lucky enough to have it in stock, but it varies week by week."

There have been issues securing Ozempic since August, and that's expected to continue through January, if not longer, according to the FDA's Drug Shortages Database.

Regardless of how a customer is using the medication, pharmacists have no way of knowing how urgently a person needs the prescription. As a result, McLinn could receive several prescriptions in quick succession, while someone who comes later in the day needing their prescription filled leaves empty-handed, she said.

"It all kind of goes back to what are you using this medication for?" she said. "Do you really need it or do you not need it? But until then, I don't see how we can tell someone that they shouldn't be prescribed the medication if their doctor prescribed it for them."

Alex Simone can be reached at alex.simone@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter at @NPNOWSimone.