OHIO — Erin Slay likes to cook.
"Makes my family happy. Makes me happy. It’s a good way to de-stress," said Slay.
But nutritious foods aren’t all this mother keeps in her kitchen. Since August, Ozempic has remained fully stocked in her fridge.
“The Ozempic has really helped me," she said.
She started taking Ozempic after finding out she has type 2 diabetes last summer. As a nurse, the diagnosis was hard to cope with at first.
“Shocked probably wasn’t even the right word. Devastated was probably a word because I never wanted to hear those words," said Slay.
Now, Slay said she feels like one of the lucky ones. She said she knows the semaglutide injection medication is experiencing a shortage currently, and so far, she hasn’t had an issue filling her prescription.
“I get mine from University Hospitals pharmacy," she said.
It’s shipped to her home each month and that proactive approach works for her.
“And I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been able to get the medication. I haven’t had any problems with it," said Slay.
According to the manufacturer that creates Ozempic, Novo Nordisk, intermittent supply disruptions are expected to continue through mid-March. The company cites incredible demand coupled with overall global supply constraints as the cause.
Recently, reports show a spike in people using the drug off-label, many using tele-health providers to get a prescription and paying hundreds of dollars out of pocket.
Some celebrities and social media influencers are taking the injection as a means to lose weight.
“If you think you’re just going to lose the weight really quick, it doesn’t work like that. It takes time to build up to certain levels. So, I think sometimes it becomes sensationalized and the new weight loss excitement," said Slay.
University Hospitals clinical pharmacist Dr. Ebne Rafi said it’s been tough to keep enough Ozempic in stock lately which has been frustrating for health care providers and patients.
“A lot of times, people are using it for weight loss when they don’t have clinical obesity or a medical diagnosis of obesity. Unfortunately, as a result this, kind of leaves a shortage for people who do need it for a medical purpose," said Rafi.
Rafi said there have been shortages in this class of medications off and on for a few years now. In the last couple of months, he said he’s been getting lots of calls from people asking for Ozempic. Many patients are having a hard time finding it.
“You might get patients who were struggling with their diabetes for a very long time. They finally get established on a medication similar to this in this class and they’re doing well. They get motivated and now they just can’t get the medication, which is more devastating for their morale," said Rafi.
He said another reason for the shortage is the increased number of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, 90-95% of them have type 2.
Ozempic was FDA approved in 2017 to improve blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events.
Slay has a family history of hypertension and coronary artery disease and said this drug allows her to take care of herself with preventative measures.
“And really after that first injection I knew this was the right step to my health," said Slay. “I noticed that my appetite, I don’t eat as big as I used to eat. I eat smaller meals.”
She said she’s lost 30 pounds to date with the help of Ozempic, along with changes to her diet and exercise routine.
“Feel better. Making much better choices," said Slay.
She injects 2 milligrams once a week and is proud of how far she’s come in her health journey.
“It’s good. I feel good in my skin," she said.
Slay hopes others will not take advantage of the Ozempic supply so it’s available for those who need it.
“So, it doesn’t upset me or frustrate me. I actually worry more for people that think this is a quick fix. I did many of the right things. Exercise, diet, drinking all of the water, doing all of these things and it was something metabolic that was wrong with my body that I needed this type of help," said Slay.
Dr. Revital Gorodeski Baskin is an endocrinologist at University Hospitals.
"These mediations can be dangerous. No medication should ever be taking like candy and there are side effects," said Gorodeski Baskin. "The fact that the craze on social media has blown up makes it so that patients want a quick fix and I never hand out a medication like of any sort, but especially these medications with any intention of a quick fix."
The most common side effects of Ozempic are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
For those looking to lose weight, Wegovy is better option to discuss with your doctor. It’s the same medication as Ozempic, just at a higher dose and was approved by the FDA in 2021.