The Wegovy Shortage Drags On, Leaving Patients in Limbo

When Mark Basa wanted his subsequent dose of Wegovy, he labored his method down an inventory of 10 CVS shops inside a 25-mile radius of his Peekskill, N.Y., residence — and struck out at each one. In the 10 weeks he couldn’t discover the drug, he regained the eight kilos he had misplaced on the medicine, and his blood sugar rose. He felt himself get out of breath extra usually. His shirts match tighter.

“It was anxiety-inducing,” Mr. Basa, 37, mentioned. “It was like, ‘Well, I’m never going to lose this weight.’”

Wegovy has appeared on the Food and Drug Administration’s drug scarcity checklist since March 2022. But medical doctors and sufferers say that the scenario has worsened in the months since Novo Nordisk, the Danish firm that manufactures the drug, limited the availability of the three lowest doses of Wegovy. With demand climbing quicker than provide can sustain, the transfer successfully slows the tempo of individuals beginning the drug, as a result of sufferers should start with a low dose that’s regularly elevated. The scarcity has fueled widespread frustration amongst potential sufferers, in addition to these like Mr. Basa who must refill their prescriptions or danger regaining weight.

“It’s created this living hell,” mentioned Dr. Andrew Kraftson, a medical affiliate professor in the division of metabolism, endocrinology and diabetes at Michigan Medicine.

A Novo Nordisk consultant wrote in an e-mail that the drugmaker anticipates “ongoing supply disruption” for these three doses as demand continues to outpace manufacturing. The firm didn’t have an estimate for the way lengthy they may proceed to restrict these doses.

“The pipe is closed,” mentioned Dr. Scott Hagan, an assistant professor of medication on the University of Washington who research weight problems. Dr. Hagan sees sufferers with extreme arthritis in want of hip and knee replacements who’re above the body mass index threshold for surgical procedure; Wegovy might assist them lose sufficient weight to have surgical procedure, he mentioned, however not in the event that they’re unable to start the drug.

Wegovy is an injectable model of a compound known as semaglutide, which slows the emptying of the abdomen and, in flip, makes individuals really feel full quicker and for longer. It additionally targets the areas of the mind that regulate urge for food, lowering cravings and silencing what some individuals name “food noise.”

New sufferers start by injecting themselves weekly with the bottom dose of Wegovy for a month; after that, they will improve the dose month-to-month till they attain a “maintenance dose.”

When individuals cease taking Wegovy, they usually regain weight. And when sufferers can solely entry the medicine in suits and begins, they could find yourself “weight cycling,” a time period researchers use to explain fluctuations in weight — which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Some sufferers find yourself quickly taking older weight loss medicines like Saxenda as a stopgap, however these alternate options are far much less efficient and might include new unwanted side effects, Dr. Kraftson mentioned. Others could find yourself attempting to supply semaglutide from compounding pharmacies, which might introduce a number of risks and problems. Patients could need to change to Ozempic, however that, too, may be exhausting to search out.

Dr. Padmaja Akkireddy, an endocrinologist at Nebraska Medicine, mentioned that when sufferers cease taking Wegovy for greater than a month, she begins them again on a decrease dose — which may be disappointing for individuals trying to lose extra weight, and quicker.

Others, like Ali Husain, have tried to search out workarounds. Mr. Husain, 51, started the medicine in March to chop down on weight he had gained earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic. By June, he was solely capable of finding larger doses in inventory. When his pharmacy unintentionally despatched him the best dose after he spent weeks with out the drug, he determined to measure his personal decrease doses. But after he resumed taking the medicine and reached a better dose, the unwanted side effects rattled Mr. Husain, who vomited so intensely that his abdomen ached for days.

One purpose that sufferers are suggested to comply with the strict dosing schedule is to stave off unwanted side effects.

“With a higher dose, there’s more weight loss, but also more side effects,” Dr. Hagan mentioned. People also can expertise extra unwanted side effects in the event that they go on and off the medicine, Dr. Akkireddy mentioned, as a result of their our bodies wrestle to recalibrate.

Mr. Husain’s physician determined to place him again on a decrease dose to mitigate his unwanted side effects. Hours earlier than he spoke with The New York Times, Mr. Husain acquired a textual content from Walgreens. It was out of inventory.

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