Semaglutide, a weight-loss drug known for its effectiveness, has been facing a global shortage since 2022 when it became popular after being promoted by social media influencers and celebrities. The drug is used to treat type 2 diabetes and helps to manage blood sugar and weight better than other medications. However, the shortage of Ozempic, the form of semaglutide used to treat diabetes, has left many patients with diabetes struggling to find pharmacies with their treatment in stock, 9NEWS reports.
One of the major concerns about the drug is its cost, which is significant, and the potential lack of equity in access to it, particularly for people with lower incomes. In addition, the risk of pancreatitis and thyroid and pancreatic cancers are still under investigation. The drug also has side effects like nausea, bloating, constipation, and diarrhoea.
In this article, let’s explore the benefits and drawbacks of Semaglutide and its use in managing diabetes and obesity.
Semaglutide: What Is It and How Does It Work?
Semaglutide is a type 2 diabetes drug that mimics the activity of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) in the body.
GLP-1 is produced naturally in the intestine and aids in blood sugar regulation by increasing insulin production, decreasing stomach emptying, and suppressing appetite. Semaglutide, known as Ozempic, is a once-weekly injection that binds to and activates the GLP-1 receptor, resulting in increased insulin release and decreased glucagon secretion, leading to lower blood sugar levels. In addition to its blood sugar-lowering effects, Semaglutide has also been shown to have potential benefits for weight loss and cardiovascular health.
Who Can Benefit from Semaglutide?
Overall, Semaglutide is a versatile medication that can benefit people with various health conditions:
People with type 2 diabetes
By increasing insulin synthesis and decreasing glucagon secretion, semaglutide helps control blood sugar levels.
People with obesity
Semaglutide has been found to be effective in reducing body weight in people with obesity. It reduces appetite and increases feelings of fullness, leading to decreased food intake.
People with cardiovascular disease
In persons with type 2 diabetes and established cardiovascular disease, semaglutide has been found to lower the risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke.
People with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
Semaglutide has been shown to improve liver function and reduce liver fat in people with NAFLD.
People with chronic kidney disease
Those with type 2 diabetes and chronic renal disease have been shown to have a lower risk of kidney disease development when taking the drug.
It is important to note that Semaglutide is a prescription medication that should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare provider.
Is the Drug Accessible in Australia?
Approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Semaglutide has been accessible in Australia. It is available with a prescription from a healthcare provider. However, this may vary depending on location and insurance coverage. To determine the availability and proper usage of Semaglutide, speak with a healthcare provider.
Comparison of Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity in Australia
Type 2 diabetes and obesity are two interrelated health issues prevalent in Australia. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot use insulin effectively, resulting in high glucose levels in the blood. On the other hand, obesity is defined as excess body fat, which can lead to various health complications.
Approximately two-thirds of Australian adults are overweight or obese. And an estimated 1.7 million Australians live with type 2 diabetes. Obesity is a significant risk factor for having type 2 diabetes, and those who are overweight or obese are more likely to get it.
Controversy Surrounding Semaglutide
Semaglutide has been controversial due to its high cost and potential side effects. The medication is expensive, which has raised concerns about accessibility for those who may benefit from it. Additionally, some studies have suggested that Semaglutide may increase the risk of specific adverse effects, such as pancreatitis and diabetic retinopathy. However, it is crucial to note that these risks remain to be studied and evaluated, and the advantages of Semaglutide may outweigh the potential risks for specific individuals.
Australian doctors have been advised not to prescribe the drug for obesity. However, semaglutide in the form of Wegovy has recently been approved for weight loss in the United States and Australia.
Addressing the Shortage
To combat the shortage of Semaglutide, a multi-faceted approach is needed:
- Pharmaceutical companies need to increase their production of drugs to meet the growing demand.
- Healthcare providers should work to ensure that patients who need Semaglutide are given priority access to the medication. Governments may also need to step in to facilitate the importation of Semaglutide from other countries where it is more readily available.
- Efforts should be made to educate the general public and healthcare professionals on the benefits of Semaglutide and its role in type 2 diabetes management. This can help reduce the stigma associated with the drug and increase its uptake.
- Ongoing research and development should be conducted to find alternative treatments for type-2 diabetes to reduce the burden on Semaglutide and other similar drugs.
Semaglutide is a medication that can effectively treat type 2 diabetes and obesity, but its accessibility in Australia is limited. Policymakers, healthcare providers, and pharmaceutical companies need to work together to improve the availability of this medication and ensure that people who can benefit from it can access it. As a first aider, understanding the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and obesity in Australia can help you be better prepared to assist someone experiencing symptoms of these conditions. Moreover, knowing the potential benefits and limitations of Semaglutide can help you provide more knowledgeable assistance to someone taking or considering this medication.
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