Diabetes patients struggle to get medication that’s snapped up as weight-loss drug

Blood sugar-regulating Ozempic prescribed to thousands for obesity in lieu of injectable Wegovy, not available in Israel – making some diabetics resort to less-effective medication

A diabetic woman injects herself with insulin (dzika_mrowka via iStock by Getty Images)
A diabetic woman injects herself with insulin (dzika_mrowka via iStock by Getty Images)

Some diabetes patients are struggling to get their hands on medicine crucial for their health as it contains the same active ingredient as a sought-after weight loss drug not yet sold in Israel, it was reported Tuesday.

Ozempic, a drug used by diabetics to regulate blood sugar, contains semaglutide, which can be used for weight loss, albeit at a smaller dosage than Wegovy, an injectable obesity drug that can help its user shed 15 percent of body weight after a year-long course of treatment but will only be made available in Israel at the start of 2023.

Thousands of potential Wegovy customers have therefore been using Ozempic as a substitute, causing supplies to be drained and some pharmacies unable to provide the drug to diabetic patients, Channel 12 news reported.

“Just last week, I was forced to stop the treatment of 10 patients on Ozempic since they were unable to obtain the medicine, and give them a different drug that in my eyes is less good,” Dr. Ruthie Gorev told Channel 12.

Diabetes is a chronic condition whereby the body does not make enough of, or can’t respond to, insulin — a hormone created by the pancreas that allows blood sugar to enter into cells to be used as energy. This leads to high levels of blood sugar.

The Health Ministry has thus far refused to stop doctors from prescribing the diabetes drug to weight loss patients, claiming it would be an inappropriate intervention into doctors’ discretion.

Overweight people hike at the Wingate institute (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of overweight people hiking at the Wingate institute in Israel. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Instead, the Health Ministry sent a letter to the Novo Nordisk pharmaceutical company to request they work to ensure a “regular supply” of the drug. According to Channel 12, the company has already increased its supply of Ozempic to Israel over other countries.

The Danish multinational drug firm reportedly said they would “work with full transparency alongside the Health Ministry” in order to ensure access of the drug to those who need it.

According to recent data from the World Health Organization released in 2022, 26.1% of adult Israelis suffer from obesity, including 25.9% of males and 26.2% of women.

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