Patients, charities and healthcare experts have called for prescribers to stop issuing a diabetes medication for weight loss, due a national shortage affecting those who need it.

Ozempic was developed to manage blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes (T2DM). Its active ingredient, semaglutide, is used additionally for long-term weight management in people with the condition.

However, the drug has become a popular solution to weight loss – hailed as the ‘skinny jab’ – with some online pharmacies prescribing it off-label to otherwise healthy people who are hoping to lose weight.

This spike in weight-related prescription has seen stocks run low and even dry, being caused: “by an increase in demand for these products for [both] licensed and off-label indications,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). The statement also said that supplies of the medication are not expected to return to normal levels until at least mid-2024.

The DHSC, together with patients and charities, has warned that shortages of these drugs have serious implications for people with T2DM. The DHSC has told doctors to only prescribe these medications for their licensed indications.

“We understand that off-label prescribing can be beneficial in some circumstances, but we cannot support it when it is directly contributing to ongoing shortages for people living with T2DM and the impact this has on managing [T2DM] well,” said Douglas Twenefour, the head of care at Diabetes UK.

“These shortages have serious clinical implications in the management of people living with T2DM , both on physical and mental wellbeing, and existing stocks must be conserved for their use,” he said.

Further reading:

DHCP: Shortage of GLP-1 receptor agonists.