Important medicine shortage information – Ozempic (semaglutide)
The Association for the Study of Obesity on the island of Ireland, ASOI, and the Irish Coalition for People Living with Obesity, ICPO, have expressed our concern regarding the recent Medical Council communication sent to doctors in Ireland about semaglutide. It stated that semaglutide as “Ozempic” is licensed for the treatment of T2DM. It should have advised that semaglutide is also licensed for the treatment of obesity (used together with diet and physical activity) as per HPRA/EMA in Jan 2022. Generic prescriptions for semaglutide to treat obesity are within license and it is misleading and inaccurate to imply that prescribing semaglutide is not appropriate for weight management.
The communication raises the issue of reimbursement, which is a separate and important issue, but does not pertain to the conversation about appropriate prescribing. Given that pharmacotherapy for obesity is only reimbursed under strict criteria and a managed access protocol, the cost of medication can pose an insurmountable barrier to people with obesity accessing evidence-based treatment. We are aware that an alternative medication for the treatment of obesity is available in Ireland and produced by the same company as semaglutide but at a significantly higher cost to the patient.
The ASOI requested clarification with regard to the statement that “medical practitioners are expected to use resources appropriately and responsibly”, suggesting that prescribing semaglutide for obesity (without diabetes) is inappropriate and irresponsible. Additional advice that practitioners should be mindful of the “risk to patient safety arising from medicine supply issues” evokes an alarmist tone and implies a disregard to patients with diabetes if doctors prescribe semaglutide appropriately to those with obesity.