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Diabetes drug, Ozempic, causes controversy as people clamber to use it for weight loss side effect

Diabetes drug in high demand causing controversy due to weight loss side effect
Diabetes drug in high demand causing controversy due to weight loss side effect 02:50

Ozempic, a drug traditionally reserved to help diabetic people lower their blood sugar and control long-term weight management has become the topic of controversy in recent weeks when it went viral on social media due to it's weight loss side effect — causing people to clamber for a prescription, even without the disease. 

The sudden high demand has cause a shortage of the Semaglutide, sold under the brand name Ozempic, creating issues for diabetics who actually need their prescriptions filled to ensure that their bodies can release insulin. 

"There is a lot of anxiety in the community right now over the Ozempic shortage," said Zoe Wiit, who lives with insulin-dependent diabetes and works as a spokesperson for MAD, or Mutual Aid Diabetes. MAD helps diabetics secure hard to come by medicines and supplies. "Social media is pushing this, there's so many pressures on people to lose weight."

Patti Stanger, businesswoman and host of "Millionaire Matchmaker," tweeted that "Everybody I know is on it." A thought echoed by fellow television host Andy Cohen. 

He said, "Everyone is suddenly showing up 25 pounds lighter. What happens when they stop taking #Ozempic ?????"

Dr. Nancy Rahnama, an obesity medicine specialist, says they won't be happy with the results. 

"If they stop the drug, they will gain their weight back and then some," she said, also indicating that using the drug without real need could result in serious long term risks, including GI side effects, kidney issues and gall stone issues.

Despite this, Rahnama said that she's been so flooded with requests for Ozempic that she's had to resort to screening phone calls and refuse appointments. 

"I don't prescribe this drug to them if they don't qualify for it," she said, noting that doctors can prescribe the drug as they see fit, even for non-diabetics, to treat other conditions. 

However, insurance doesn't always cover Ozempic, which costs $1,200 for a month's supply, for alternate uses. 

"Ozempic was hard for diabetics to get even before this happened," Witt said. "It was hard to get it approved by insurance, so then to see all these people, essentially anyone who has the money to do it, get it instantaneously — it's very frustrating."

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