Inside the TikTok trend that’s causing ‘havoc’

A TikTok trend promoting off-label use of a crucial drug has sparked a nationwide shortage and created “havoc” for those who need it most.

People with type 2 diabetes are still going without their essential medicine, as a TikTok trend promoting its off-label use as a miracle weight loss solution continues to grow.

Australia has been hit by a nationwide shortage of Ozempic (semaglutide), a once-weekly injectable drug that is only approved for people with type 2 diabetes in conjunction with diet and exercise.

But GPs and medical professionals have prescribed the drug off-label to thousands of weight loss hopefuls across the country.

These people documented their success on TikTok with hashtags like #ozempicjourney.

“In three weeks I lost a full dress size without trying to diet,” one said.

“I lost 25 kg in 4 months. And now there is a national shortage,” said another.

In response to someone who asked how Ozempic was prescribed for weight loss when it was only approved for type 2 diabetes, one commenter stated that “primary use is for diabetics at subsidy purposes, but is used off-label for weight loss. The doctor can prescribe it. I had no problem getting it and I’m not diabetic”.

Two weeks ago, the Therapeutic Goods Administration released a strong joint statement on the shortage of Ozempic, asking healthcare professionals to only prescribe and dispense it for its approved use.

The statement, which was made in conjunction with nine other health bodies including the Australian Medical Association, said essential and ongoing care for people with type 2 diabetes must be prioritized.

He warned people who did not have type 2 diabetes that the prescription for Ozempic might not be filled.

The manufacturer, Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, said there are enough supplies for the approved use of Ozempic, but “recent large prescriptions” for “obesity management” have created shortages.

People with type 2 diabetes have been advised to stick to their usual pharmacy and complete their records “as soon as possible”.

Ashleigh Rae, who has type 2 diabetes, told NCA NewsWire earlier this month that not being able to access Ozempic had “played havoc” on her body after the pharmacist she had been going to since she was child no longer had it.

“Because Ozempic changes the way you digest food, when you suddenly have a withdrawal from it, your body has to go back to how it was before,” she said.

“Without it, your blood sugar goes a little crazy, which means the rest of your diabetes can be very difficult to manage.

“I switched from ordering from my pharmacist to Ozempic because it was so new and no one was there all of a sudden there was no stock anywhere in Australia in the space of ‘a script.’

But she made it clear her frustration was with GPs for prescribing it off-label.

“It’s really frustrating to hear stories of people using it to shed a few pounds,” Ms Rae said.

“Taking it because you want to lose a bit of weight like a few pounds versus people who really need it for serious weight issues and diabetes is very different.”