Diabetes medication shortage worsens

Michelle Wisbey

28/11/2023 3:56:50 PM

Access to treatment is becoming increasingly dire for patients, with GPs predicting a shortage of tirzepatide will add to an already long list of supply issues.

Empty storage racks in a building with security.
The TGA has warned that shortages for many diabetes medications will last for at least another year.

Diabetes patients have been dealt yet another blow, with medication shortages expected to continue, and potentially worsen in the new year.
GPs have been warned to prepare for an impending shortage of tirzepatide (sold as Mounjaro), with some doses already out of stock in warehouses and at wholesalers.
The shortage comes just weeks after an international study found tirzepatide is more effective for weight loss than semaglutide (sold as Ozempic) in overweight or obese adults.
In Australia, dulaglutide and semaglutide are the only two glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs) listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for treatment of type 2 diabetes, but neither are approved for weight loss.
Despite this, Dr Gary Deed, Chair of RACGP Specific Interests Diabetes, said 2.5 mg and 5 mg doses of tirzepatide are increasingly hard to come by.
He told newsGP the ongoing shortages are adding an extra layer of complexity to prescribing medications to those who need it.
‘Obviously doctors are prescribing it well above expectations, so again, we’re having trouble with it simply not being available for people who are looking at Mounjaro as an alternative,’ Dr Deed said.
‘It’s difficult because if you start a patient on these medications, there’s no guarantee that the clinical benefits or ongoing supply is going to be secure over the next few months.
‘It’s becoming a real extra burden in the clinical care of patients [who are] are feeling very frustrated, very annoyed.’
It is the latest in a long list of supply issues and potentially dangerous shortages for those living with diabetes.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has predicted a shortage of the Tik Tok-famous semaglutide will continue well into next year.
Meanwhile, shortages of dulaglutide (sold as Trulicity) are now expected to extend to 31 December next year, as the TGA continues to work with manufacturers to sure up supply.
Dr Deed said GPs are being forced to have difficult conversations with patients about starting a treatment while being unable to guarantee its ongoing availability.
‘Don’t prescribe off-label for people without diabetes. If we prescribed only to patients that are really at great need of it, there might be enough supply,’ he said.
‘Off-label prescribing might seem clinically appropriate, but it stops people who are most likely to benefit from it to get access.
‘It’s like going to the petrol station and driving all the way there with a very low tank and it’s just not available. There becomes a sense of desperation, a sense of disappointment and that’s frustrating because they can’t be guaranteed that if you go to a different chemist that the drug will be there anyway.’
The TGA has also urged prescribers to prioritise the medications for those most in need.
‘Do not initiate new patients on Ozempic unless there are no suitable alternatives or there is a compelling clinical reason to do so,’ it warned.
Log in below to join the conversation.

diabetes medication shortages Ozempic weight loss

newsGP weekly poll What is your chief concern with role substitution?

newsGP weekly poll What is your chief concern with role substitution?



Login to comment

Dr Henry Bryan   29/11/2023 7:20:23 PM

I am sick of all this rubbish about these medications only being used by diabetics. There are a number of medications for diabetics but almost none for the very significant widespread (lol) condition obesity. They should not be used by people who wish to lose a couple of kilos but for those with significantly elevated BMIs or whatever is fashionable ; some of them may be also diabetics. The health risks for them are considerable but all we hear is the voice of the wonderful Dr Deed, a great champion of the diabetic but we hear nothing for the very significantly fat people, of whom I am one, who also need support from their doctors not just condemnation and fat shaming. The reason these drugs are in short supply could be because obesity is a real illness and patients are desperate and their doctors are trying to help them.