BOSTON — At the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, doctors would love to start more patients on the weight-loss drug Wegovy.
But, at the moment, they can’t.
“The Wegovy shortage is all over the country,” said Center co-director Caroline Apovian, MD. “It absolutely hit Massachusetts.”
What the shortage is not hitting – the higher doses of the drug. Apovian said that has enabled patients who were already on Wegovy when the shortage hit to remain on it.
“However, we ran out quickly of the .25, the .50 and the 1.0,” Apovian said.
Those doses are suitable for new patients, who have to begin Wegovy therapy on a low dose so as not to become overwhelmed with its main side effect: nausea.
“That’s why we can’t start patients on Wegovy now,” Apovian said. “Because those doses are not in stock.”
Apovian said this is not only frustrating for patients, but weight management doctors, too. That’s because Wegovy works extremely well – and it’s conveniently dosed just once weekly.
“The weight loss is unprecedented,” Apovian said. “The weight loss is double the mean weight loss of any other medication for weight management. So it quickly became extremely popular the minute it was available.”
Wegovy induces weight loss by influencing areas of the brain responsible for appetite.
Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical firm approved to market Wegovy, tells Boston 25 News unprecedented demand for the drug is helping drive the shortage – but the company also had manufacturing issues to contend with.
Apovian said these had to do with reliance on a single supplier of the injectable “pen” used to deliver the weekly subcutaneous doses.
Novo Nordisk can’t specify when the Wegovy shortage will be resolved, though the company tells Boston 25 News it is aiming for the second half of this year. And next year, Novo Nordisk plans to expand production of Wegovy.
For now, weight loss centers are relying on other drugs for new patients – but Apovian said they are looking forward to getting Wegovy back in stock.
“We have other oral agents, but they’re nowhere near as effective as Wegovy,” Apovian said. “It’s so frustrating to have this great drug hit the market, only to have this other snafu, which is a huge one of having it not be available in the lower doses. And we can’t wait for this to be overcome.”
Less easy to overcome, Apovian said: the reluctance of some insurance companies to cover drugs for obesity and weight loss management.
“A lot of patients can’t get Wegovy, even if it was available, because of lack of insurance coverage,” she said.
Out-of-pocket, Wegovy runs around $1,400 a month, according to GoodRx.
“We treat obesity as a second-class disorder,” Apovian said. “We have to stop this. We have to recognize that it’s not a matter of willpower. And once we recognize that, we will be able to treat obesity like the other chronic conditions.”
Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.
©2022 Cox Media Group