Diabetes type 2 injectable, Ozempic, a drug not regulated by the national health scheme (Gesy) is in general shortage in Cyprus, as people rush to take part in an international weight loss craze, the pharmacists’ association said on Friday.

Ozempic, which is a semaglutide injected with a pen once a week used to control blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes, is also marketed as an anti-obesity drug, as it helps people lose weight.

Since this revelation, an international trend has developed with celebrities advertising Ozempic on social media to lose weight.

However, speaking to the Cyprus Mail on Friday, the head of the Cyprus Pharmacists’ Association Eleni Piera-Isseyegh said that since this trend began there have been general shortages of the medicine in Cyprus, making it difficult for people, who really need it to get access.

“There are periodic shortages generally [of the drug], and we believe that it should be given only to people that need it,” she said.

According to Piera-Isseyegh, the medicine is not regulated by Gesy, but to be able to get it, people need to provide a doctor’s prescription.

She added that there are side effects of the medicine, which costs €118.65 for a packet of four pens at the pharmacy.

Side effects include nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal pain, headache, fatigue, indigestion/heartburn, dizziness, bloating, belching, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in patients with type 2 diabetes, gas (flatulence), gastroenteritis, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

According to a report in Philenews, one witness in Cyprus told them that although they know a family member with a real need for Ozempic, an acquaintance asked them to get a doctor to write a prescription for the drug to lose a few kilos.

Speaking about the drug, the director of pharmaceutical services at the health ministry Elena Panayiotopoulou said: “Ozempic, as all medicines, can have side effects and in this specific case, there could be dangerous effects to the liver or pancreas or other organs.”

She added that in recent weeks, precisely because of this international trend that has also developed in Cyprus, they have proceeded with very strict checks in pharmacies, while special recommendations have been made to doctors to prescribe this injectable medicine only when there are medical reasons, i.e. in people with type 2 diabetes.

According to Panayiotopoulou, there is an expected increase in demand for the drug ahead of the summer season for weight loss.

“This causes concern, because it could potentially cause decreased stores to cover the needs of people that need this medicine for health reasons,” she said.

The Danish pharmaceutical manufacturer, Novo Nordisk, recently announced that it is trying to respond to the greater than expected demand, while through the competent European committee, as far as the EU is concerned, it informed the member states to take their measures so that the medicine is only prescribed in the cases in which it is needed.

In the cases where there are real medical reasons for the administration of the drug, the pathologist – diabetologist Panayiotis Demosthenous said that patients undergo specific tests to establish that these individuals are able to receive it.

“Also, during the reception of the drug, medical monitoring is continuous,” he told Philenews.

He pointed out at the same time that if a person takes Ozempic for aesthetic reasons, they need to follow a proper diet and avoid old habits, otherwise they will gain the weight back.