UK bans Ozempic for weight loss

The UK government has alerted weight-loss clinics in Britain to halt the prescription of Ozempic-type medications to slimmers due to a shortage of the drug, commonly used for diabetes treatment.

Over the past two years, regulatory bodies in the UK and the US approved the medication for weight loss in cases where other medical conditions like heart disease or diabetes are present. Countries worldwide, including Cayman, have experienced a notable increase in the use of this injectable medication for weight loss.

The drug’s global demand has exceeded its production capacity, prompting the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care to issue a national patient safety alert. It urged National Health Service (NHS) and private healthcare providers not to offer these medicines, known as glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs), to weight-loss clients. The medications affected include semaglutide (Ozempic), dulaglutide, liraglutide, and exenatide – all initially designed for diabetes treatment.

The UK alert stated that supplies of Saxenda, the brand of liraglutide medication authorised for weight-loss use, are not expected to stabilise to meet market demand until at least mid-2024.

Dr. Nick Gent, Cayman’s chief medical officer, said he closely monitors developments in the UK and collaborates with colleagues on best practice guidelines. He emphasised that the limited supply should be prioritised for those who benefit most from the medication, specifically significantly overweight individuals with heart disease or diabetes.

Dr. Gent also warned about potential misuse of the drug, highlighting the unpleasant side effects if not properly monitored. His recommendation is to prescribe and use the medication only in cases with the appropriate clinical indications.