Germany is thinking of prohibiting Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic from being sold.

How widespread is the use of Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide medications for weight loss across Europe?

There’s such a frenzy that the German drug regulator is contemplating prohibiting the export of Ozempic, as reported by Der Spiegel magazine.

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With dwindling supplies across Europe and Novo facing challenges in meeting the escalating demand, some individuals with type 2 diabetes are encountering difficulties accessing treatment.

Initially sanctioned by the FDA in 2017 for diabetes management, Ozempic’s capacity to regulate blood sugar has inadvertently spurred weight loss, leading physicians to prescribe it off-label, thus driving the surge in demand.

Karl Broich, president of the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, informed Der Spiegel that due to Ozempic’s lower cost in Germany, the drug is exported to the United States and other European nations.

“We’re currently in discussions with legislators about potential actions if the current measures and public communications don’t yield results. If needed, we may consider implementing an export embargo to ensure an adequate supply remains in the country for those who require it,” Broich stated.

Novo also produces Wegovy, approved in 2021 for obesity treatment and sharing the same compound as Ozempic. However, Wegovy’s scarcity surpasses that of Ozempic.

“We require the medication for diabetic patient care, not as a lifestyle medication,” Broich emphasized regarding Ozempic.

Recently, Belgium restricted the use of Novo’s GLP-1 drugs exclusively to type 2 diabetes patients and those seeking weight loss with a BMI of at least 35, or a BMI of at least 30 with a related co-morbidity.

In July, the UK cautioned about shortages of GLP-1 drugs, urging doctors and online pharmacies to prescribe Ozempic solely to type 2 diabetes patients. They also advised against initiating new Ozempic treatments for type 2 diabetes until the scarcity was resolved, predicting the situation might persist until mid-2024.

Last week, Novo declared a 42 billion Danish kroner ($6 billion) investment to expand its active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing site in Kalundborg, Denmark, responsible for producing semaglutide.

Novo finds itself in competition with Eli Lilly in the weight loss domain. Recently, Lilly obtained approval for the obesity treatment Zepbound, the same formulation as its type 2 diabetes drug Mounjaro, authorized for type 2 diabetes treatment in May of the previous year. Similar to Novo, Lilly also faces challenges meeting demand despite substantial investments in expanding manufacturing capabilities.

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