Weight loss drug Wegovy available to retail pharmacies nationwide after shortages

Novo Nordisk says it is increasing production capacity in 2023 after working through supply challenges

Novo Nordisk, the maker of weight loss drug Wegovy, said the medication that faced a nationwide shortage due to a rise in popularity on social media is now available to all retail pharmacies in the U.S.

The Danish multinational pharmaceutical company – which also suffered supply constraints with its diabetes-related drug Ozempic – said that all dose strengths of Wegovy are now available after the company faced supply constraints due to unprecedented product demand and short-term manufacturing issues.

The company said in a statement to FOX Business that it "worked through supply challenges" and is increasing production capacity in 2023 while "closely monitoring prescribing trends and assessing demand." 

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It is a sigh of relief for doctors who were left "scrambling to find alternative medicines that don't exist," according to gastroenterologist and obesity medicine specialist Dr. Christopher McGowan. 

"This is extremely positive for the field because we've been waiting for many, many months for the availability of Wegovy… which has been immensely frustrating for medical providers and patients alike," McGowan told FOX Business. "We have this incredibly effective medicine, and we just simply couldn't prescribe it," he added. 

The pharmaceutical company said it may still "experience normal delays given the time required to order the product from their local distribution center, and geographical variabilities." It is also still "experiencing intermittent supply disruptions" for certain doses of Ozempic "due to the combination of incredible demand coupled with overall global supply constraints." 

McGowan cautioned that patients resuming Wegovy need to start at the lowest dose again. If patients start where they left off, they can face significant side effects.

While Wegovy and Ozempic are the same medication – semaglutide – they have different dosages and FDA-approved intended uses. 

Both drugs surged in popularity last year after celebrities and other high-profile figures – including Elon Musk – touted their effects as a weight loss treatment. Novo Nordisk said neither drug is "intended to be used as a lifestyle medication."

Ozempic was approved by federal health officials in 2017 and marketed for medical use in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes "with weight loss as a secondary effect of the drug’s effects and mechanism of action." 

Meanwhile, Wegovy was approved four years later specifically for chronic weight management in adults who are obese or overweight and that have at least one weight-related condition such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol, according to the Food and Drug Administration. 

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In October, Novo Nordisk announced that it was dealing with supply disruptions on various doses of Ozempic. 

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The issue is that as Wegovy started to become less readily available, medical professionals started to see "the off-label use of Ozempic for weight loss which is not what it's indicated for," according to McGowan.

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This, in turn, began to pose risks for patients with diabetes and who needed the medicine.