TGA approved weight loss drug Wegovy could help thousands of Aussies – but there’s a huge catch | 7NEWS

A newly approved weight loss drug could change the lives of thousands of Australians living with obesity and diabetes who have been struggling to get their hands on treatment.

But while the drug can now be prescribed in Australia, 7NEWS.com.au can reveal it is unlikely to be accessible at local pharmacies anytime soon.

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For months, diabetics have been voicing frustrations on their struggle to find stock of the life-saving drug Ozempic, a once-a-week injectable prescription medicine to help people with type-2 diabetes depend control their blood sugar.

More than 125,000 diabetic Aussies depend on Ozempic – but demand for it as a weight loss drug has skyrocketed in recent months as TikTok users tout it as a miracle weight loss treatment. The hashtag #Ozempic has amassed more than 158.3 million views on the platform.

The “unexpected increase in consumer demand” was causing limited stock for those who need critical doses, according to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

“The increased demand is due to extensive prescribing for obesity management, for which Ozempic is not indicated,” it said in a statement in May.

Novo Nordisk – which manufactures Ozempic – originally anticipated the irregular availability of Ozempic would continue until at least the end of August, but has since adjusted that expectation to the end of the year, according to the TGA.

On Thursday, the TGA approved the drug Wegovy – which has the same active ingredient as Ozempic – for chronic weight management for adults with obesity in Australia.

The TGA added Wegovy to the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods on Friday.

“Wegovy has been approved for use for weight loss management for adults living with obesity and overweight with at least one weight-related comorbidity,” TGA told 7NEWS.com.au.

With a higher dose of semaglutide specifically for weight loss, the drug could reduce the Ozempic shortage by offering doctors the option to prescribe the low-dose Ozempic to diabetics and Wegovy to patients with obesity.

But a source with knowledge of the matter tells 7NEWS that this is unlikely to solve the problem in the short term.

7NEWS.com.au understands the high global demand for the drug means Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures both Ozempic and Wegovy, will not yet release the drug in Australia.

Instead, 7NEWS understands the company is opting to prioritise stock for the US, where health funds typically cover the cost for member prescriptions and are willing to pay higher than market price.

The Dutch pharmaceutical company said the timing of its availability in Australia is not yet confirmed.

“Novo Nordisk is working hard to make Wegovy available for patients living with obesity as soon as possible,” a spokesperson told 7NEWS.com.au.

“Obesity is a serious, chronic, relapsing condition with a high prevalence and a substantial unmet medical need.

“We understand there is a significant need for medical treatment options for obesity.”

The pharmaceutical company did not comment on where stocks will be prioritised instead.

WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW: Expert weighs in on use of diabetes drug for weight-loss

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7NEWS.com.au understands the TGA is aware Novo Nordisk is not yet supplying Wegovy to Australia.

This means there may not be relief for those struggling to get their hands on the drug.

Sarah Smith told 7NEWS.com.au earlier this year that she went to her local pharmacy, where she would usually fill her script for Ozempic for her type-2 diabetes, only to be told it was out of stock.

“I need this to live. I’ve got a serious health condition that’s not going away. I’ve got this for life, and I need to manage it, and you want to take away my medication so you don’t have to eat properly and do some exercise?” she told 7NEWS.com.au at the time.

“It’s ridiculous.”

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