It can be a genuine threat to patient safety and potentially contribute to supply shortages, says College Chair
Publication date: 30 July 2023
Responding to reports that a rise in off-label prescriptions of Ozempic for personal weight loss is potentially leading to shortages for diabetics, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs said:
“Semaglutide is currently licensed for use, under the brand name Ozempic, in the treatment of diabetes. More recently it's been approved, under the brand name Wegovy, for people meeting certain criteria for weight loss through specialist NHS clinics.
"However, in either form, it should not be seen as a ‘miracle drug’ for weight loss - and as with any medication, there is the risk of side effects. It's growing popularity for personal use, either being acquired through online pharmacies 'off licence' with minimal checks and balances, or from dubious online sources without a prescription at all, is troubling. It can be a genuine threat to patient safety if drugs are not being used for what they are licensed for - and potentially contributes to supply shortages.
"Also concerning is that in some cases, people may not be buying what they think they are, which is really dangerous.
"The government’s plans to expand the use of semaglutide through a pilot scheme in primary care may well prove to be a highly valuable asset in tackling obesity – making it all the more vital that adequate supplies of the drug are secured.
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Notes to editor
The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.