The Rise of Ozempic and Wegovy: High Demand Necessitates a Cautious Consumer
In a country where obesity is synonymous with drive-thru fast food and super-sized portions, the U.S. FDA has recently approved new drugs for weight management. If you have come across any news on the topic of weight loss in the last year, you have undoubtedly heard the prescription drug names Ozempic or Wegovy – or their active ingredient semaglutide. Ozempic, manufactured by Novo Nordisk, received FDA approval for treating type 2 diabetes in October 2017. Over the following years, they observed that a common side effect of taking Ozempic for type 2 was a reduction in weight and a lower BMI. So, in 2021, Novo Nordisk patented the medication under the brand name Wegovy and received FDA approval for weight management for people with a BMI greater than 30. As explained by The European Medicines Agency, in clinical trials for semaglutide (the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy), patients lost an average of 15% of their body weight. (For a 250-pound patient, this could mean a potential weight loss of 37.5 pounds). Compare that to those in the placebo group who reported only a 2% reduction in total body weight. While Ozempic and Wegovy have some differences, both medications are in high demand by those looking for long-term solutions for their chronic obesity.
Competition in the weight loss market is high. In May 2022, the FDA approved Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro (tirzepatide) for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Like Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly is hoping to gain FDA approval for the treatment of weight loss as clinical studies have shown that 66% of patients have experienced a weight reduction of 20% or more when on a weekly dose between 10-15mg of Mounjaro. Novo Nordisk also holds FDA approval for the oral formulation of semaglutide for the treatment of type 2 diabetes marketed under the brand name Rybelsus. Rybelsus differs from Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro in that it is an oral medication taken daily. Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro are all injectable medications that are taken once weekly.
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In a world where most people do not have access to whole foods or nutritional education, medications that can assist in weight management are a game changer. But such fanfare has also led to an unsafe and unregulated market for these in-demand products.
So what is all the hype about Ozempic and Wegovy?
The medical side of weight loss has been a taboo subject for many years. It was not until June 2013 that The American Medical Association voted to recognize obesity as a disease state in which intervention and prevention were needed. According to an analysis released by data-analytics firm Trilliant Health, more than 9 million prescriptions of Ozempic, Wegovy, or a similar medication for weight loss were prescribed in the last three months of 2022 alone. That is a 300% increase in prescription volume between early 2020 and the end of 2022. Data compiled by the World Health Organization shows that, in 2016, 39% of adults 18 years and older were overweight and 13% were obese. Of those reported to be overweight or obese, 462 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes per the National Library of Medicine.
These factors have made the demand for medications like Ozempic, and now Wegovy, soar to heights that Novo Nordisk has been unable to accommodate. According to a Novo Nordisk announcement in November 2022, company production could not keep up with the demand for its active ingredient semaglutide. Novo Nordisk manufactures semaglutide in their facilities in Denmark and the United States and plans to infuse $6 million by the end of 2029 in their Denmark facility to try and keep up with production demands.
According to the head of European Pharmaceuticals Equity Research at Barclays, the weight loss industry could be valued at as much as 200 billion dollars in the next decade.
High semaglutide demand necessitates a cautious consumer
Because consumers may be denied coverage by their insurance or face shortages due to high demand, many are searching for alternative options. But take heed: Many times when a drug product becomes trendy, consumers need to be extra cautious of how and where they obtain it. The FDA has issued an official warning to steer clear of compounding pharmacies or any pharmacy marketing Ozempic or Wegovy as “generic”. There is no such thing as an FDA-approved generic or biosimilar of either of these products. Approved generic and biosimilar products must go through rigorous efficacy testing to be approved as an official generic product of a brand name product. This is to ensure that the same quantity of the active ingredient is getting into the bloodstream and also lasting in the body for the same amount of time as the brand name pharmaceutical. This approval process also includes making sure that any “filler” ingredients (excipients) used in the makeup of the medication are not altering the way the medication is being delivered and used by your body.
Ozempic and Wegovy are both refrigerated medications that are injected subcutaneously with a pen needle. Storage requirements state that both medications need to be kept between 36°F to 46°F – or 2°C to 8°C – until the medication is opened, and then the medication may be kept under refrigeration or at room temperature for 56 days. After 56 days, any remaining medication in the pen should be thrown away for the safety of the patient. PharmacyCheckers’ refrigerated shipping policy (see Policy 16-03) has not yet been met by any international online pharmacy. Online pharmacies – none accredited in the PharmacyChecker International Pharmacy Verification Program – have used these “trendy” drugs to boost their bottom lines without consideration for the patient’s safety. Rogue pharmacies may ship these medications without employing proper cold chain management solutions, which is detrimental to unsuspecting consumers’ health.
In general, a package of refrigerated medication should arrive and be put in a refrigerator within 48-72 hours of being shipped depending on the certified shipping container used. When pharmacies ship these medications internationally, these time frames are rarely achieved. Domestically, pharmacies have access to quicker delivery times and a package can easily arrive within the certified time frame of the package. When reviewing websites that advertise shipping of cold storage medication, a consumer should note the location of the pharmacy, the stated amount of time it will take to receive the package, and the details as to how it will be packed. If this information is not available, move on. Make sure you verify an online pharmacy is accredited by PharmacyChecker before proceeding to make a purchase.
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PharmacyChecker can help you identify a rogue website. When looking for medications online, make sure the internet pharmacy that you are on is accredited in the PharmacyChecker International Pharmacy Verification Program or certified by another reputable credentialing authority, such as the Canadian International Pharmacy Association or LegitScript. You can view a sample list of PharmacyChecker’s accredited international online pharmacies here. Be extremely wary of websites that sell prescription medication without necessitating a prescription or if they have a “provider” on call to write a prescription: Both are huge indicators that the “pharmacy” is rogue and dangerous.
Ozempic and Wegovy Price Comparison
30 day supply
|Out-of-pocket at US Pharmacies
|Walgreens with GoodRX Coupon
|An Independent US Pharmacy with a US coupon on PharmacyChecker.com
Pricing Collected December 2023
To compare discount Ozempic prices offered by local pharmacies in the United States on PharmacyChecker.com, please visit: Ozempic U.S. Coupons
To compare discount Ozempic prices offered by local pharmacies in the United States on PharmacyChecker.com, please visit: Wegovy U.S. Coupons
If you are interested in learning more about either Ozempic or Wegovy, reach out to your healthcare provider to see if treatment with either medication is appropriate for you.