December 1, 2023

When Mark Basa wanted his subsequent dose of Wegovy, he labored his manner down an inventory 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 treatment, and his blood sugar rose. He felt himself get out of breath extra usually. His shirts match tighter.

“It was anxiety-inducing,” Mr. Basa, 37, mentioned. “It was like, ‘Properly, I’m by no means going to lose this weight.’”

Wegovy has appeared on the Meals and Drug Administration’s drug scarcity listing since March 2022. However docs and sufferers say that the state of affairs 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 quicker 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 regularly 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 dwelling hell,” mentioned Dr. Andrew Kraftson, a medical affiliate professor within the division of metabolism, endocrinology and diabetes at Michigan Medication.

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’ll 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 body 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 begin the drug.

Wegovy is an injectable model of a compound known as semaglutide, which slows the emptying of the abdomen and, in flip, makes individuals really feel full quicker and for longer. It additionally targets the areas of the mind that regulate urge for food, lowering cravings and silencing what some individuals name “food noise.

New sufferers begin by injecting themselves weekly with the bottom dose of Wegovy for a month; after that, they will improve the dose month-to-month till they attain a “upkeep dose.”

When individuals stop taking Wegovy, they usually regain weight. And when sufferers can solely entry the treatment in matches and begins, they could 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 briefly taking older weight reduction drugs like Saxenda as a stopgap, however these alternate options are far much less efficient and may include new uncomfortable side effects, Dr. Kraftson mentioned. Others might find yourself making an attempt to supply semaglutide from compounding pharmacies, which might introduce a bunch of risks and issues. Sufferers might need to change to Ozempic, however that, too, might be exhausting to search out.

Dr. Padmaja Akkireddy, an endocrinologist at Nebraska Medication, 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 individuals seeking to lose extra weight, and quicker.

Others, like Ali Husain, have tried to search out workarounds. Mr. Husain, 51, began the treatment in March to chop down on weight he had gained earlier within the Covid-19 pandemic. By June, he was solely capable of finding greater doses in inventory. When his pharmacy by accident despatched him the very best dose after he spent weeks with out the drug, he determined to measure his personal decrease doses. However after he resumed taking the treatment and reached a better dose, the uncomfortable side effects rattled Mr. Husain, who vomited so intensely that his abdomen ached for days.

One purpose that sufferers are suggested to observe the strict dosing schedule is to stave off uncomfortable side effects.

“With a better dose, there’s extra weight reduction, but additionally extra uncomfortable side effects,” Dr. Hagan mentioned. Folks may expertise extra uncomfortable side effects in the event that they go on and off the treatment, Dr. Akkireddy mentioned, as a result of their our bodies battle to recalibrate.

Mr. Husain’s physician determined to place him again on a decrease dose to mitigate his uncomfortable side effects. Hours earlier than he spoke with The New York Occasions, Mr. Husain acquired a textual content from Walgreens. It was out of inventory.

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