May 5, 2023 -- The on-again, off-again saga of Wegovy supply problems for U.S. patients looking to lose weight is back.
Novo Nordisk, the company that manufactures and markets semaglutide for weight loss as Wegovy and for treating type 2 diabetes as Ozempic, announced Thursday that the company will only be able to “supply limited quantities of 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, and 1 mg dose strengths [of Wegovy] to wholesalers for distribution to retail pharmacies” in the United States. This means that the expected supply “will not meet anticipated patient demand,” a situation the company expects to continue “through September.”
The update added that the bottleneck is caused by supply failing to meet U.S. demand, although the announcement also assured patients already using the drug and taking higher weekly dosages that their supply should not be affected.
“We do not currently anticipate supply interruptions of the 1.7 mg and 2.4 mg dose strengths of Wegovy,” the announcement said.
Déjà Vu All Over Again
If this supply shortage seems like déjà vu, that’s because the U.S. supply of Wegovy also fell short throughout much of 2022. However, by December 2022 and as recently as February 2023, statements from Novo Nordisk made it sound like the supply shortages were coming to an end. The company’s announcement today shows that optimism was misplaced.
A shortage of doses for 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, and 1 mg will mostly affect people starting on Wegovy. To avoid or minimize side effects, especially gastrointestinal effects, when patients start treatment with semaglutide or any other similar drug, they begin on the lowest dose and gradually work up to a maintenance dose, which for Wegovy can be up to 2.4 mg/week.
The company’s announcement acknowledged this impact, saying health care providers should “take into consideration the limited supply of the 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg and 1 mg dose strengths of Wegovy as part of their decision-making when initiating new patients on therapy, recognizing the possibility of disruption in care.”
Novo Nordisk’s announcement also urged providers and patients to avoid using the semaglutide formulation designed for treating type 2 diabetes, Ozempic, as a work-around. The statement highlighted that Wegovy and Ozempic “are not interchangeable.”
This Wegovy shortage redux may prompt a return to the workarounds devised by U.S. weight loss clinics last year.
One of these workarounds involves starting patients on a different drug for weight loss, such as liraglutide (Saxenda), and then crossing the patient over to an available, higher-dose formulation of Wegovy once the early phase is complete.