Doctors should no longer prescribe glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists to help people lose weight, health officials have said.
A national patient safety alert on the shortage of GLP-1 receptor agonists has been issued by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), which has instructed GPs to only prescribe semaglutide to people with diabetes.
Sold under the brand name Ozempic, the drug helps individuals living with type 2 diabetes manage their blood glucose levels.
In recent times the drug has been used as a way to lose weight quickly, with some celebrities using the drug to shed the pounds, including Elon Musk and Kim Kardashian.
Earlier this year, the DHSC released an urgent announcement outlining the shortage of all GLP-1 receptor agonists.
An increase in demand for these products for licensed and off-label indications has reportedly been the cause of the shortage.
According to the DHSC, supplies of the drug are not expected to return to normal until at least mid-2024.
During the shortage, clinicians are required to:
- Only prescribe GLP-1 RAs for their licensed indication
- Review the need for prescribing a GLP-1 RA agent and stop treatment if no longer required due to not achieving desired clinical effect as per NICE CG28
- Avoid switching between brands of GLP-1 RAs, including between injectable and oral forms
- Where a higher dose preparation of GLP-1 RA is not available, do not substitute by doubling up a lower dose preparation
- Where GLP-1 RA therapy is not available, proactively identify patients established on the affected preparation and consider prioritising for review based on the criteria below.
- Where an alternative glucose lowering therapy needs to be considered, use the principles of shared decision making as per NICE guidelines
- Where there is reduced access to GLP-1 RAs, support people with type 2 diabetes to access to structured education and weight management programmes where available
- Order stocks sensibly in line with demand during this time, limiting prescribing to minimise risk to the supply chain whilst acknowledging the needs of the patient.
Clinicians should consider prioritising review for people with type 2 diabetes on the affected GLP-1 RA preparation where:
- HbA1c greater than 86mmol/mol in the previous 3 to 6 months
- HbA1c greater than 86mmol/mol prior to starting the GLP1-RA
- HbA1c not recorded in the previous 6 months
- Urine albumin creatinine ratio (uACR) greater than 30mg/mmol
- Self-monitoring glucose readings (or Continuous Glucose Monitoring, where available) are persistently above individualised target range.
To access the latest National Safety Alert on the shortage of GLP-1 receptor agonists, click here.
For more information, click here.