Australian diabetics are being stranded without an essential medication after social media influencers touted it as a miracle weight loss drug.
The treatment called Ozempic is injected weekly to help control blood sugar in type 2 diabetes patients, together with diet and exercise. An estimated 1 in 20 Australians have diabetes, based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Health Survey. About one in 10 Americans have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But a TikTok trend lauding Ozempic’s weight loss benefits has left Australian patients struggling to get their hands on critical doses. The social media app has been flooded with users recording their use of the drug to shed pounds, with the hashtag #Ozempic amassing over 74 million views.
In response to the nationwide shortage, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) issued a joint statement with several medical and pharmaceutical groups on May 17. The agency urged doctors to limit their prescriptions of Ozempic to its approved use after “an unexpected increase in consumer demand.”
“The increased demand is due to extensive prescribing for obesity management, for which Ozempic is not indicated,” the statement said. “The shortage is significantly affecting people using Ozempic for its approved use for type 2 diabetes.”
The TGA also encouraged diabetics to contact their pharmacies “as early as possible” to have their prescriptions filled, rather than waiting until their medicine came close to running out.
In 2021, another diabetes medication called Wegovy was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be sold as a weight loss drug in the United States. Wegovy is still being assessed for weight management by the TGA.
TikToker Sophia Woods, who posts under the username @the.builders.wife, racked up nearly 300,000 views on a video sharing her “Ozempic weight loss.”
“In 3 weeks I went down a whole dress size without ‘trying’ to diet,” she claimed in the clip. “Today I squeezed into these size 12 jeans. My appetite has decreased so much. It took two shots of Ozempic.”
Another woman named Cassie who posts as @_life.of.cassie_ has documented her use of Ozempic over several weeks.
On week 16, she said in a video with 27,500 views, her weight had fallen from 83 kilograms (183 pounds) to 74.8 kilograms (165 pounds).
TikTok has been a platform for dubious health advice before.
Recently, DIY baby formula recipes went viral amid the baby formula shortage in the United States.
Both the FDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have warned that at-home baby formula recipes and substitute milks are dangerous to infants.
Newsweek reached out to the TGA for comment.