Elon Musk and TikTok raise fears of a diabetes treatment shortage? It’s true

Are people with diabetes the new victims of influencers? For several days, many have been testifying on social networks to difficulties in finding their treatment in pharmacies.

One product in particular is targeted: Ozempic. This drug, manufactured by the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, is an injectable antidiabetic indicated for adults with type 2 diabetes, i.e. nearly 2 million people in France.

But according to some Internet users, its success on social networks would raise fears of a shortage that would endanger those in need… 20 minutes make the point.

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Contacted by 20 minutes, the French branch of Novo Nordisk confirms global tension over Ozempic. If the first reason given is the increase in the number of diabetics in the world (+15% in two years according to the European Center for the Study of Diabetes), another reason is its popularity on social networks.

Because the molecule of Ozempic, semaglutide, has another “virtue”, that of losing weight.

The molecule of this drug allows people with hyperglycemia to secrete insulin, and it also slows the passage of food from the stomach to the intestine, which limits the rise in sugar after meals. Semaglutide therefore has an “appetite suppressant” effect. Among the undesirable side effects are diarrhea and nausea. Inconveniences that are however sought by some people who want to eat less and lose weight.

Many influencers advise Ozempic on Tiktok – TikTok screenshots

Elon Musk and TikTok cause a rush on the product

These effects have not gone unnoticed by many influencers who have not been shy about promoting them on social networks like TikTok or Instagram with hashtags like #myozempic #myozempicjourney. Videos showing young people having injections in their stomachs to lose weight have accumulated several hundred million views.

Elon Musk himself promoted the drug on Twitter
Elon Musk promoted the drug himself on Twitter – Screenshot

Among the most famous, Elon Musk tweeted that the drug was the secret to his “shape”, and the Kardashian family is also said to be big fans of it (we owe him the prowess of Kim who stepped into Marylin Monroe’s dress after losing eight kilos in three weeks).

More than 40% of requests in a few months

Problem, all this promotion created a rush on the drug all over the world. “It was in Australia that we saw the first supply tensions in mid-September,” attests Emmanuelle Lesourd, pharmacist in charge of Novo Nordisk France, who adds that demand for Ozempic has increased by 40% since.

A finding that led the laboratory to create another drug based on the same molecule, Wegovy, approved in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

If Wegovy is not yet authorized for marketing in France, this has not prevented Internet users from understanding that Ozempic has the same qualities. “We have seen an over-prescription of this product in the field of obesity,” says Jean-François Thébaut, cardiologist and vice-president of the French Federation of Diabetics.

The National Medicines Safety Agency calls on doctors and pharmacists to be vigilant around the prescription of the drug.
The National Medicines Safety Agency calls on doctors and pharmacists to be vigilant around the prescription of the drug. – Screenshot

Indeed, several pharmacists contacted by us confirmed having seen people, most often young people, presenting themselves with prescriptions for Ozempic: “Although they are not known to suffer from diabetes”, adds the one of them. “Some doctors seem too permissive. It is understandable that it is used in the fight against obesity, but for many it is only overweight, or even people who just want to adjust their figure before going on vacation. »

The laboratory ensures that its production is adapted to demand

A finding confirmed by the Tiktokeurs who praise the merits of Ozempic to remove a small layer of fat here or there to be more “instagrammable”. Some even suggest that they can provide a list of accommodating doctors (a data that we could not verify – Editor’s note).

Jean-François Thébaut recalls all the same that the use of Ozempic in France is only authorized for the purposes of treatment against diabetes and that it will be necessary to obtain a possible marketing authorization for Wegovy in order to be able to use it to lose weight.

The vice-president of the French Federation of Diabetics, however, is reassuring about the availability of the product: “We have obtained from the laboratory and the ANSM that people followed for diabetes have access to their treatment. »

Data confirmed by Novo Nordisk. The laboratory has set up an emergency repair system which ensures “100%” supply for pharmacists who request it. “Our production system was not adapted to such an increase in demand, but we are currently working on adapting it, which should be complete by the end of 2023”, specifies Emmanuelle Lesourd. In the meantime, the Novo Nordisk laboratory is asking professionals to give priority to people with diabetes for the delivery of Ozempic, until the end of this tension.

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