There’s no dearth of weight loss trends on TikTok. Among the more legit: taking Semaglutide, a drug originally created to treat diabetes, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for weight loss last year.
But you may want to pause before asking your doctor for a prescription. Because as the drug has gained popularity on social media, it’s become harder for people with diabetes (you know, the ones who actually need the medication) to get it.
Semaglutide (which is sold under the brand names Ozempic, Rybelsus and Wegovy) is a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin production.
The FDA approved Semaglutide for weight loss last year, making it the first drug treatment for chronic weight management since 2014. To qualify for prescriptions, adults had to be clinically overweight and have at least one other weight-related condition, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Over 30 percent of Americans are overweight and over one-third are obese, so Semaglutide could be a game-changer for over 70 million people, says Matthew Cowling, D.O. a physician who specializes in weight loss. But that promise makes it hard for manufacturers to keep up as the interest in the drug has spiked on social media.
On TikTok, users are sharing that the medication has helped them lose weight by suppressing their appetite. As influencers, trends, and hashtags increased, this drug’s supply decreased. The FDA’s website notes that Semaglutide is currently unavailable or expected to be re-supplied in the second half of this year.
That means people with diabetes may have trouble getting the medication.
The shortages aren’t just affecting the United States. Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration released a statement last month proclaiming that the increase in demand for obesity management has seriously affected those with type 2 diabetes.
Cowling’s advice: If you don’t have type 2 diabetes, don’t ask your doc for a prescription —at least not right now.
“Those with a medical condition need to be triaged to receive the drug first,” he said. “Patients who are at risk of dangerous blood sugar increases in the setting of T2DM [Type 2 diabetes mellitus] should be first to receive the drug, then those suffering with morbid obesity (BMI<40) are advised to next receive it.”