Weight-Loss Drug Zepbound Faces Supply Issues


Another popular weight-loss drug is in short supply.

Doses of tirzepatide (Zepbound) are few and far between, experts told MedPage Today, although the injectable has not been listed in the FDA Drug Shortage Database as of today.

Another version of tirzepatide, for type 2 diabetes (Mounjaro), has been on the FDA shortage list since December 2022.

As prescriptions for the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonist go unfilled, patients are having pandemic flashbacks, according to one physician.

Jody Dushay, MD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, told MedPage Today that one of her patients picked up a refill for a GLP-1 agonist and joked that “she felt like she was buying toilet paper during COVID; she’s going to take it home on the T [train] and she feels like she has to extra protect it.”

“There is no Zepbound available and [it is] out of stock. Patients have been frantic and it has been chaotic,” Gitanjali Srivastava, MD, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, told MedPage Today in an email. “It has to do with supply and demand and the manufacturers have quite underestimated the demand/supply chain issue.”

Srivastava and Dushay offered their takes on how the situation got so bad. “It has to do with supply and demand, and the manufacturers have quite underestimated the demand/supply chain issue,” Srivastava stated in an email to MedPage Today.

Dushay said she suspected the shortage was due partially to insurance coverage expanding to include Zepbound after it hit the U.S. market in December 2023. “At first, there wasn’t much insurance coverage, and then — it’s almost been week to week — additional insurance companies were approving it,” she said. “I’m getting a lot of approvals, way more approvals than denials, I would say, over the past month, and even approximately over the past couple of weeks.”

Dushay noted that all drugs in this class, including the blockbuster semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy), have ultimately proven difficult to access amidst continuing intermittent shortages. She also cautioned that the situation may get worse if a cardiovascular (CV) indication for tirzepatide is approved. “If there are data with tirzepatide that show CV benefit, similar to what they found in Wegovy … I think the shortages will accelerate,” Dushay said.

Ethan Melillo, PharmD, a senior manager of integrated health at L’Oreal who previously worked as a diabetes pharmacist, said he believes patients switching from Wegovy to Zepbound are driving up demand and straining supply.

“There’s more weight loss with Zepbound, so that’s why a lot of people are switching, and that’s why you probably saw the same thing with Mounjaro,” Melillo told MedPage Today. “Just because people are noticing the greater weight loss, but it makes sense because [of] the mechanism of action — how it doesn’t work just on GLP-1 but also works on GIP [glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide] as well.”

Dushay noted that because of “spotty” shortages for the various step doses of tirzepatide, patients have asked her if they can skip a dose. For example, going from 2.5 mg to 7.5 mg, and bypassing the recommended 5-mg dose. More often she may take them down a dose, for example, from 10-mg injections to 7.5 mg, Dushay said.

An Eli Lilly company spokesperson told MedPage Today in an email that “[w]hile Lilly continues to manufacture and ship all doses of Zepbound, due to the unprecedented demand for these medicines, some patients may experience difficulty when trying to fill their prescription at their pharmacy. We recognize this situation may cause a disruption in people’s treatment regimens. …We are in regular contact with the FDA to provide updates on supply, and they will follow their process to update the Drug Shortages Database.”

The FDA has not responded to MedPage Today’s requests for comment as of press time.

Srivastava pointed out that “given that greater than 40% of the U.S. population has obesity, these … medications are more like aspirin or statins, given their benefits in [cardiovascular] disease and other medical conditions, coupled with high efficacy compared to other FDA-approved obesity medications.”

  • Sophie Putka is an enterprise and investigative writer for MedPage Today. Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Discover, Business Insider, Inverse, Cannabis Wire, and more. She joined MedPage Today in August of 2021. Follow

Disclosures

Srivastava disclosed relationships with Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, and Rhythm.

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Source link : https://www.medpagetoday.com/special-reports/features/109471

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Publish date : 2024-04-02 17:23:26

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