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Cosmetic use of Ozempic in the EU criticized due to drug shortage

Cosmetic use of Ozempic in the EU criticized due to drug shortage
Cosmetic use of Ozempic in the EU criticized due to drug shortage

(Bloomberg) – The European Union’s drug regulator has urged countries to restrict the cosmetic use of powerful weight-loss and diabetes drugs, saying patients who need the medicines most must be given priority as shortages continue.

Member states should “consider measures to control and optimise the distribution of these medicines,” the umbrella organisation that monitors the supply of medicines in the EU said on Wednesday. Drug manufacturers must also ensure that their marketing messages are approved by the regulatory authorities, the organisation said.

The success of Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Wegovy, as well as competitor Eli Lilly’s blockbuster drugs that can help people lose unprecedented amounts of weight, has left some diabetes patients struggling to continue their treatment.

The shortages are unlikely to be resolved this year, Emer Cooke, executive director of the European Medicines Agency, told a news conference. “We cannot ignore that there is an increase in off-label use in people who do not live with diabetes,” she said.

The rollout of the obesity variants of the drugs has been slower in Europe, fueling demand for the sister products for diabetics. Unlike in the more lucrative US market, upfront price negotiations are often the order of the day in discussions with European public health systems.

The use of diabetes drugs such as Ozempic for weight loss will exacerbate shortages, EU regulators said on Wednesday. They urged doctors to prescribe the drugs only within the scope of their approved use and in particular to avoid prescriptions for cosmetic weight loss. People who do not suffer from obesity or weight-related health problems should instead seek advice on their lifestyle, they said.

In Europe, Ozempic and Lilly’s Mounjaro are approved to treat diabetes. Mounjaro is also approved to treat obesity, where it retains the same brand name – unlike in the US, where it is sold under the name Zepbound. Novo’s Wegovy and its older drug Saxenda are also available in Europe for weight management.

The EU regulator warned patients against circumventing the system by buying weight loss drugs online without a prescription as they risk receiving a counterfeit product that could be dangerous.

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