Opinions in Healthcare

Wegovy Shortage

In recent months, there has been a surge in clinicians prescribing subcutaneous injections for weight loss to their patients. As a result, manufacturers have struggled to keep up with the increased demand. Pharmacies are now informing patients who are prescribed medications for weight loss, such as semaglutide and tirzepatide, that they are currently on backorder with no estimate for when they will be available.

Semaglutide has become a well-known household name; however, many individuals may know it by its brand name, such as Ozempic and/or Wegovy. Novo Nordisk produces both Ozempic and Wegovy.  Both of these brand names contain the same active ingredients, but their FDA approval indication is different. Ozempic has been approved for the indication of diabetes mellitus type 2, but it has recently been used as an off-label indication for weight loss. Wegovy, on the other hand, was specifically approved for weight loss. Since its approval in June 2021, the first report of a Wegovy shortage was in March 2022. As of February 2024, almost all the strengths currently available of Wegovy are currently on backorder. According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), this shortage is due to increased demand. Novo Nordisk has taken measures to increase its production capacity. 

This is not the first time Novo Nordisk has tried to take measures to address the increased demand for Wegovy. In May 2023, Novo Nordisk restricted the supply of Wegovy 0.25 mg/0.5 mL, which is the starting dose, due to the increased demand. According to the manufacturer’s schedule, this dose is taken for up to 4 weeks before increasing to higher doses. Restricting the starting dose of Wegovy would help prevent shortages of higher doses of Wegovy. 

As of January 2024, Novo Nordisk has published a statement on its website regarding its response to the Wegovy shortage. The company says that they are closely monitoring the market dynamics and prescriber trends to manage the production of Wegovy. They further added that it has increased production by running its manufacturer lines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By doing this, they anticipate a gradual increase in the supply of Wegovy throughout the rest of 2024. The manufacturer states that individuals experiencing challenges receiving their prescription of Wegovy should speak to their healthcare providers about other treatment options. Currently, the manufacturer does not recommend switching to Saxenda due to not guaranteeing supply to meet the increased demand for any weight management medication treatment. 

Many patients prescribed Wegovy have been concerned because they cannot fill their medication due to the shortage. Many patients are now stuck wondering what happens if the strength they need is on backorder during their titration schedule. If a situation occurs, the manufacturer has addressed the missed dose of Wegovy in the prescribing information. Novo Nordisk states, “ If 2 or more consecutive doses are missed, resume dosing as scheduled or, if needed, reinitiate Wegovy and follow the dose escalation schedule, which may reduce the occurrence of gastrointestinal symptoms associated with reinitiation of treatment.”

This blog was written by:

Sofia Guirola, PharmD Candidate 2024