No end in sight for diabetes drug shortage in Estonia

Ozempic pen.
Ozempic pen. Source: ERR

Diabetes drug Ozempic, which has become popular among people looking to lose weight, remains in short supply in Estonia and is usually sold out within hours. The State Agency of Medicines and the manufacturer say the situation is not about to improve.

Pharmacies in Estonia took delivery last week of a new batch of the diabetes drug Ozempic people use to lose weight. "We have the Patient Portal, e-prescriptions, e-pharmacies and online drug availability data. However, when pharmacies get new shipments of drugs, you have to phone them and reserve a quantity for yourself. The pharmacy has the drug but you can't buy it – everything is booked," a drug user told ERR in a letter.

"We got ten boxes per pharmacy. We could say it was sold out quite quickly, partly because a lot of it was ordered through the e-pharmacy system. People also come by to ask whether we have gotten any more of the drug, said Helika Sikk, head of the Veerenni Südameapteek.

The drug is sold based on the first come, first served principle. People can call the pharmacy and book the drug but need to pay for it inside one hour of doing so. Helika Sikk said that the trouble with Ozempic is not supply problems but simply demand.

"Estonia received 4,000 boxes of the 1 mg Ozempic drug last week, which was almost immediately distributed to pharmacies. The next delivery is expected next week, followed by another in June," said Liis Prii, head of the medicines' agency's supervision department.

"The supply shortages will continue at least until the end of this year, with more information expected from the sales permit holder once next year's production volumes and distribution become clear," she added.

Koit Arro, head of the Estonian branch of manufacturer Novo Nordisk, said that problems started 20 months ago when the diabetes drug became popular and scarce. The pharmaceutical company has been trying to ramp up production since then.

"We have five factories in different parts of the world and have been working on expanding all of them. These efforts started at a few factories initially but are now being made in all of them. We are talking about hiring an additional 4,000-5,000 people," Arro.

While Novo Nordisk's Weagovy drug, which uses the same active ingredient and is meant for weight loss, has secured a European sales permit, Koit Arro said it will not be reaching Estonia before 2025 as the pharmaceutical company wants to concentrate on making enough of the diabetes drug first.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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