Drug shortages are continuing to persist in the UK affecting patients with different conditions, including those with type-2 diabetes who are on GLP-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs).

Earlier this month, NHS England issued a National Patient Safety Alert regarding the shortage of GLP-1Ras. This was following a similar one issued in July 2023, which stated and that supplies were unlikely to stabilise sufficiently to meet market demand until at least mid-2024. In response to the January alert, the Diabetes UK issued a statement saying such shortages were being seen globally due to an increase in off-label use of semaglutide for weight loss.

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The alert issued actions to be taken by healthcare workers, such as only prescribing GLP-1 RAs for their licensed indications, and prescribing Rybelsus, another form of the GLP1RA semaglutide, for new treatment initiations and for those patients who can be switched from AstraZeneca’s Byetta (exenatide) and Novo Nordisk’s Victoza (liraglutide).

The diabetes medicines in short supply are Ozempic, Rybelsus, Trulicity (dulaglutide), Victoza, Saxenda, Byetta, and Bydureon, as listed in the NHS Alert.

Novo Nordisk, manufacturers of Ozempic, Rybelsus, Victoza, and Saxenda, told the BBC that Ozempic has increased in popularity due to media coverage, and across social media, leading to an increased demand. The company went on to add that it is working with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to stop the off-label use of the medicines.

In the UK, Ozempic is approved to treat adults with type 2 diabetes as an adjunctive treatment in addition to diet and exercise. Wegovy, another semaglutide brand however is approved as a weight loss drug. The widespread off-label use of these drugs for weight loss has created a challenge for type 2 diabetes patients, the BBC reports.

The FDA and EMA have both reported shortages of these GLP-1RAs , with Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and Health Canada also cautioning healthcare providers against initiating new patients on these drugs due to the ongoing global shortage.

According to a report on GlobalData’s Pharma Intelligence Center, the anti-obesity medicines market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.3%, from $2.43bn in 2021 to $37.1bn in 2031 across the seven major markets (US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, and Japan).

GlobalData is the parent company of Pharmaceutical Technology.

In addition to GLP-1 RAs, the BBC has reported shortages for ADHD medication and hormone-replacement therapies, citing issues in both the supply chain, and an increased demand, with more patients being diagnosed with certain disorders.