Health The easy access of Ozempic recipes online and its popularity for weight...

The easy access of Ozempic recipes online and its popularity for weight loss are hurting those who need it most

The easy access of Ozempic recipes online and its popularity for weight loss are hurting those who need it most

(CNN) — Telemedicine and social media are playing a big role in increasing demand for Ozempic, a prescription drug to treat type 2 diabetes, experts told CNN. The current shortage of the drug has limited its access for diabetes patients who rely on it to control their blood sugar.

Digital health companies make it easy to get drugs like Ozempic by providing prescriptions online. They advertise quick and easy access, sometimes the same day.

“Anecdotally, it’s almost easier to get medication than [a través de compañías de salud digital]said Dr. Disha Narang, an endocrinologist and director of Obesity Medicine at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. “But it’s not always the safest thing to do.” People who put their average weight on online intake forms are being offered the anti-diabetic drug, Narang told CNN.

In part due to the popularity of Ozempic, the market for prescription weight-loss drugs has grown significantly, according to MarketData Enterprises, an independent market research and consulting firm. The market beat forecasts by 2022 and is expected to become a nearly $2 billion industry by 2023.

WeightWatchers is also taking advantage of the prescription drug space through telemedicine. Last week, the company bought the Sequence telemedicine subscription service, which helps connect patients with doctors who can prescribe diabetes and weight-loss medications.

“At the beginning of 2022, these companies were not marketing these things,” Narang said, noting that the hype around Ozempic took off in 2022. “I think we really need to start questioning our ethics around this.”

There are few general requirements when it comes to admissions processes for digital health companies, Dr. Bree Holtz, an associate professor at Michigan State University who studies telemedicine, told CNN. Once a patient completes the online forms, the information is transferred to a provider in the state who can write the prescription. Some companies require the patient to participate in a video or phone call with the provider; others don’t even require that.

“It’s a little scary that you just wake up and get these appointments, or these pharmaceuticals, without getting seen,” Holtz said.

Telemedicine has been a game changer in providing access to healthcare, particularly during the pandemic. And especially for people who live in places where high-quality primary care isn’t available, direct-to-consumer telemedicine services can help fill a gap, said Dr. Laurie Buis, an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at University of Michigan, whose research focuses on digital health.

However, when patients start seeking selective treatments from point providers, Buis says it opens the door to problems like fragmented care or abuse. Telemedicine providers may not have access to a patient’s complete medical history and may be less able to provide holistic care than a primary care physician could.

“I have no doubt that some of these services are doing a good job,” Buis said. “But there are also services that don’t take it so seriously. And that is worrisome.”

The rise in popularity of the Ozempic

The US Food and Drug Administration. (FDA) first announced that Ozempic was in short supply last August. And the supply is likely to be tight until mid-March, according to the FDA’s database of drug shortages.

Ozempic prescriptions in the US hit an all-time high in the last week of February, with more than 373,000 prescriptions written, according to a JP Morgan analysis of IQVIA data shared with CNN. That’s an increase of 111%, compared to the same week in 2022.

Of those, more than half were new prescriptions, according to a CNN review of the JP Morgan analysis.

With so many patients relying on Ozempic for diabetes treatment, providers like Narang are scrambling to figure out what alternatives they can offer their patients.

“We get messages every day from patients who can’t get their medicines,” Narang said. “It has been difficult for both patients and providers.”

Ozempic currently holds more than 40% of the US market share for glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists, a class of drugs that mimic an appetite-regulating hormone, according to a JP Morgan analysis. These drugs work by stimulating the release of insulin, which helps lower blood sugar. They also slow the passage of food through the intestine.

Ozempic has grown rapidly in popularity since it first hit the market in 2018. The drug has been used safely and successfully to help diabetics improve blood sugar levels and put diabetes in remission, he said. Orange to CNN. Ozempic is the most potent of all the GLP-1 drugs, he said.

Behind the Ozempic brand is the drug semaglutide. While Ozempic is primarily used to treat type 2 diabetes, another medication called Wegovy, also semaglutide, is specifically approved for chronic weight management.

Although it was approved by the FDA in 2021, Wegovy was unavailable for most of the past year, according to Narang, so people turned to Ozempic. According to the FDA’s drug shortage database, Wegovy’s supply was insufficient as of late March, but it became available again earlier this year.

The social media buzz around the two drugs took off in early 2023. Celebrities shared their testimonials about how semaglutide helped them lose unwanted pounds. Elon Musk, for example, publicly recognized Ozempic and Wegovy for their weight loss achievements.

#Ozempic and #Wegovy have been “extremely popular” in recent months on TikTok, according to the company’s analytics.

The use of Ozempic and Wegovy for short-term weight loss has had real consequences for patients who most need the drugs for diabetes treatment and chronic weight control, Narang said. For example, some insurance companies in the past have refused to cover Wegovy, one calling it a “vanity drug.”

Both drugs are intended for long-term use, not for short-term weight loss. Their appetite-regulating effects wear off quickly after you stop taking them.

“This is not intended to be a medicine to remove the last 2.5 or 5 kilos before an event or something like that. It is not to be used for three or four weeks,” Narang said. “When we think of weight control, we think of the next 25 years of a person’s life.”

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