The hashtag #ozempic peaks at over 500 million views on TikTok. This antidiabetic is all the rage on the social network for its slimming properties. In France, the phenomenon is causing supply tensions and worrying doctors and authorities.
“I started Ozempic six weeks ago”, says an American tiktoker in a video viewed nearly 100,000 times. In leggings and a sports bra, the young woman, visibly much thinner than in her photos of” Before “keep on going : “I didn’t do any exercise, I just injected myself! »
Product prescribed for certain people with diabetes
Ozempic, a miracle cure? This injectable product is prescribed in “the treatment of poorly controlled type 2 diabetes” in adults, specifies the Novo Nordisk laboratory, which has been marketing it in France since 2019.
Semaglutide, its active ingredient, acts by attaching itself to the receptors of a hormone which has a role in the control of blood sugar and stimulates the release of insulin when the level of glucose in the blood is high. It also slows the emptying of the stomach, thereby reducing appetite and causing significant weight loss, around 10% in one year.
A property that has enabled the manufacturer to obtain the marketing of semaglutide in many countries, including the United States, at a higher dose and under another name, Wegovy, for the treatment of obesity. In France, Wegovy received a favorable opinion from the High Authority for Health (HAS) in the treatment of obesity at the end of December. It is currently limited to very obese people with an associated disease.
Pending a decision from the authorities on its price and reimbursement, Wegovy is delivered in dribs and drabs, “unlike Ozempic, which is available with a normal prescription”, observes Professor Jean-Luc Faillie, from the University of Montpellier. Result : “Pharmacists found prescriptions” of Ozempic for non-diabetics as well as “Falsified prescriptions, used by several people”.
On Wednesday, the National Medicines Agency (ANSM) and Medicare announced that Ozempic was going to be the subject of a “enhanced monitoring” in France, explaining that “Field reports indicate misuse”. Diversions ” boundaries “ to 1% according to these authorities, who are however concerned about the impact on the availability of the product for diabetics. Novo Nordisk admits that its “current supply capacity does not always meet excess demand” and laments “intermittent availability and periodic stock-outs”.
Jean-François Thébaut, of the Diabetic Federation, is worried about a possible ” rush “ of the French on Wegovy when it will be more widely available on the national market, especially since semaglutide is “extremely efficient” against diabetes. Obesity specialist Karine Clément, of Inserm, insists on the need, then, to “fit your prescription well” : “It’s not a ‘magic’ drug. As always in obesity, it must be accompanied by comprehensive care. »
In its press release on Wednesday, the ANSM also warns: Ozempic can “lead to potentially serious adverse effects, such as gastrointestinal disturbances, pancreatitis or hypoglycaemia”. side effects “undernotified” according to Mr. Faillie, in charge of its pharmacovigilance. “This is the ‘outside the box’ problem: neither patients nor prescribers are motivated to declare” possible side effects. Besides nausea, “there are also rarer but more serious risks such as acute pancreatitis, which can occur even at low doses, biliary disorders, rare cases of severe constipation which can lead to intestinal obstruction”he notes, also emphasizing a “increased risk of thyroid cancer” after several years of treatment.
Are we risking a new health scandal like that of the Mediator? “We have more hindsight on this pharmacological class”, notes Mr. Faillie. However, if the risks of semaglutide are “mastered” in view of the benefits in diabetes, “There are always uncertainties, especially in obese patients over the long term”. “If we use it to lose a few pounds, there the therapeutic benefit is nil, it’s just aesthetics while the risks are always present”he warns.
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