(WPRI) – A weight loss trend that has gone viral on social media has made it harder to find a type of diabetes drug.
The drugs Ozempic and Mounjaro are used to treat type 2 diabetes. The injections have been shown to improve blood sugar and heart function, but doctors have recently started prescribing them to help patients lose weight.
“It’s a diabetes medicine, but it’s different from insulin,” Dr. Stephen Ramirez told KENS. “It lowers your sugar levels, but there is a safety net so that my patients’ sugar levels don’t drop too much.”
Influencers and celebrities on TikTok are showing off their weight loss with before and after photos, giving credit to the drug. Elon Musk credited Ozempic for helping him lose 30 lbs. An ad for the drug even cites weight loss as a benefit of the drug, claiming the average person loses 12 pounds.
But enthusiasm for the drug has led to a decline in drug supply. The Food and Drug Administration lists Ozempic as “currently in short supply.” Some patients report switching to lower doses to help stretch the supply.
“At one point I had patients waiting at least three months for the initial drug and that was if they paid cash,” Dr. Ramirez said.
If insurance doesn’t cover it, it’s also not a cheap way to lose weight. Dr. Ramirez said a month’s supply of Mounjaro costs about $1,200 and Ozempic costs about $875 per month.
Ramirez hopes the drug supply will catch up with demand. Both drugs are available by prescription only.
This type of off-label drug prescription is legal, reports the Los Angeles Times, but is not regulated by the FDA.
Side effects of Ozempic and Mounjaro include possible inflammation of the pancreas, vision changes, low blood sugar, and kidney and gallbladder problems.