Belgium is mulling over a temporary ban on the utilization of Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic, a diabetes treatment containing semaglutide, to facilitate weight loss in individuals grappling with obesity. The move comes in response to the ongoing medication shortage.
The proposed prohibition is expected to endure for a span ranging from a few weeks to several months, contingent upon the availability of Ozempic. The determination regarding the implementation of this ban will be made in the course of a collaborative working group meeting. This group includes participants from various sectors, including government officials, representatives from the pharmaceutical industry, insurance providers, distributors, and pharmacists.
Franck Vandenbroucke, Belgium’s federal health minister, explained the rationale behind the potential ban. He disclosed that medical practitioners had been instructed to reserve Ozempic for patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. However, this approach hasn’t yielded the desired results. Vandenbroucke acknowledged the potential benefits of Ozempic for individuals afflicted by severe obesity. He emphasized the need for comprehensive discussions on this matter and argued that a robust, legally enforceable measure is required because mere recommendations have proven insufficient.
The active component of Ozempic, semaglutide, is a therapeutic peptide. It operates by emulating the GLP-1 hormone, which then activates the corresponding receptor to prompt the release of insulin as a result of elevated blood sugar levels. This mechanism of action enables semaglutide to manage glucose levels and weight effectively.
Semaglutide is also the primary constituent of Novo’s weight-loss drug Wegovy, which received approval in the United States in June 2021. The weight-loss therapy encountered substantial demand, swiftly surpassing the available supply and Novo’s manufacturing capacity. In December 2021, Novo encountered issues with a third-party provider responsible for filling syringes for Wegovy pens, relating to Good Manufacturing Practices. Consequently, they had to halt deliveries temporarily.
Following this, Novo declared its inability to fulfill its supply goals for the initial half of 2022, resulting in only a restricted number of new patients being able to commence treatment. Initially, the company had set its sights on satisfying the demand in the United States during the latter half of 2022.
However, manufacturing challenges persisted, compelling Novo to reconsider launching the product in the European market. Wegovy finally made its debut in Germany in July 2023, marking its inaugural significant presence in a European market, as outlined in a Reuters report.
Semaglutide became available in the UK in September 2023, but Novo continued to grapple with surging demand for weight-loss therapy. The United Kingdom’s Department of Health and Social Care recently enacted a ban on the use of Ozempic for weight loss, instructing doctors to limit prescriptions to patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.