When Mark Basa wanted his subsequent dose of Wegovy, he labored his manner down a listing of 10 CVS shops inside a 25-mile radius of his Peekskill, N.Y., house — and struck out at each one. Within 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 typically. His shirts match tighter.
“It was anxiety-inducing,” Mr. Basa, 37, mentioned. “It was like, ‘Nicely, I’m by no means going to lose this weight.’”
Wegovy has appeared on the Meals and Drug Administration’s drug scarcity checklist since March 2022. However medical doctors and sufferers say that the scenario has worsened within 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 sooner 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 steadily elevated. The scarcity has fueled widespread frustration amongst potential sufferers, in addition to these like Mr. Basa who must refill their prescriptions or threat regaining weight.
“It’s created this residing hell,” mentioned Dr. Andrew Kraftson, a scientific affiliate professor within the division of metabolism, endocrinology and diabetes at Michigan Drugs.
A Novo Nordisk consultant wrote in an e mail that the drugmaker anticipates “ongoing provide disruption” for these three doses as demand continues to outpace manufacturing. The corporate didn’t have an estimate for a way lengthy they are going to proceed to restrict these doses.
“The pipe is closed,” mentioned Dr. Scott Hagan, an assistant professor of medication on the College of Washington who research weight problems. Dr. Hagan sees sufferers with extreme arthritis in want of hip and knee replacements who’re above the physique mass index threshold for surgical procedure; Wegovy may assist them lose sufficient weight to have surgical procedure, he mentioned, however not in the event that they’re unable to start out the drug.
What occurs when folks can’t discover Wegovy?
Wegovy is an injectable model of a compound referred to as semaglutide, which slows the emptying of the abdomen and, in flip, makes folks really feel full sooner and for longer. It additionally targets the areas of the mind that regulate urge for food, decreasing cravings and silencing what some folks name “meals noise.”
New sufferers begin by injecting themselves weekly with the bottom dose of Wegovy for a month; after that, they’ll improve the dose month-to-month till they attain a “upkeep dose.”
When folks cease taking Wegovy, they typically regain weight. And when sufferers can solely entry the medicine in suits and begins, they might find yourself “weight biking,” 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 reduction drugs like Saxenda as a stopgap, however these options are far much less efficient and might include new unintended effects, Dr. Kraftson mentioned. Others could find yourself making an attempt to supply semaglutide from compounding pharmacies, which might introduce a bunch of risks and issues. Sufferers could need to swap to Ozempic, however that, too, might be exhausting to seek out.
Dr. Padmaja Akkireddy, an endocrinologist at Nebraska Drugs, mentioned that when sufferers cease taking Wegovy for greater than a month, she begins them again on a decrease dose — which might be disappointing for folks seeking to lose extra weight, and sooner.
Others, like Ali Husain, have tried to seek out workarounds. Mr. Husain, 51, began the medicine in March to chop down on weight he had gained earlier within 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. However after he resumed taking the medicine and reached the next dose, the unintended effects rattled Mr. Husain, who vomited so intensely that his abdomen ached for days.
One motive that sufferers are suggested to observe the strict dosing schedule is to stave off unintended effects.
“With the next dose, there’s extra weight reduction, but in addition extra unintended effects,” Dr. Hagan mentioned. Individuals may expertise extra unintended 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 unintended effects. Hours earlier than he spoke with The New York Instances, Mr. Husain obtained a textual content from Walgreens. It was out of inventory.