Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug Ozempic has become a social media phenomenon for its weight loss effects.
Its sky-high popularity has led to global shortage and doctors warn about the potential side effects.
Videos under the hashtag #Ozempic have nearly 600 million views on TikTok. Many users regularly update followers about their weight loss due to the drug.
The injectable drug from the Danish pharmaceutical firm was initially developed and approved to treat type 2 diabetes.
The drug’s active ingredient, semaglutide, binds itself to the receptors of a hormone which controls blood sugar by stimulating the release of insulin when glucose levels are high. That way, it slows down how quickly food leaves a person’s stomach, reducing their appetite.
In early 2021, peer-reviewed research found that almost three quarters of people who used the drug lost more than 10 per cent of their body weight.
Novo Nordisk has since developed a semaglutide drug with a higher dosage called Wegovy specifically to treat obesity. Wegovy is approved for use but is not yet on the market in several countries, while Ozempic is available with a normal prescription. This has led to a rise in people without diabetes obtaining prescriptions for Ozempic.
Novo Nordisk told AFP that the demand for Ozempic has been stronger than anticipated and have resulted in stocks running low around the world.
The company’s global manufacturing facilities are now operating 24 hours, seven days a week to bridge the gap, the company added.
Doctors have expressed concerns that people with diabetes may not be able to get hold of semaglutide because of the increasing demand from people seeking to lose weight.
Doctors have also expressed concerns about the side effects of semaglutide, with nausea being the most common side effect of the drug.
According to doctors, there are also rarer and more serious risks such as acute pancreatitis, biliary disorders, rare cases of severe constipation and increased risk of thyroid cancer.
While the risks have been deemed reasonable considering the benefits for people with diabetes, there are still uncertainties concerning the use among obese patients long term.