In the Gulf, a growing scramble for Ozempic and other weight loss drugs

In the Gulf, a growing scramble for Ozempic and other weight loss drugs

BEIRUT — “Lots of you’ve been asking, ‘Lubna, speak about your expertise with Ozempic.’ Properly, I’m going to drink my espresso and speak about it in full,” Saudi TV presenter Lubna Abdulaziz advised her 150,000 followers on Snapchat final 12 months.

After consulting together with her physician, she stated, she was prescribed Ozempic. “For a month I used to be taking 0.25 [milligrams], and it had little impact on me,” she stated, however after upping her dosage to 0.5 mg, she began to note outcomes.

Then, abruptly, she stated, “It was lower off from the market.” She needed to swap to 1 mg as a result of it was the one dose obtainable, she stated, however began experiencing abdomen pains and constipation.

Abdulaziz is one in every of many within the Persian Gulf area who’ve come to depend on Ozempic and related drugs to drop some weight. As in the USA and different components of the world, hovering demand has triggered shortages and requires higher regulation.

Insurers clamping down on medical doctors who prescribe Ozempic for weight reduction

Over the previous 12 months, Ozempic has develop into a world recreation changer within the weight-loss business. The drug, which is injected utilizing a pen needle, was developed as a remedy for Kind 2 diabetes, however it’s more and more being prescribed off label to those that wish to management their meals cravings and shed kilos with out main surgical procedure.

On social media, morning speak reveals and in shiny superstar profiles, sufferers have shared their inspirational weight-loss journeys. Ozempic and its sister drug Wegovy — which comprises the identical lively ingredient and is particularly designed for weight reduction — have generated document earnings for his or her maker, Denmark-based Novo Nordisk, which says it depends on the discretion of medical doctors to prescribe them.

Ozempic is now surging in reputation within the oil-rich area, the place weight problems charges are among the many highest on the earth — pushed by near-universal entry to vehicles, punishing warmth that retains individuals indoors and the growing prevalence of processed meals. Thirty-one p.c of males and 44 p.c of girls within the United Arab Emirates dwell with weight problems, in line with the World Diet Report, whereas in Qatar, the figures are 36 p.c for males and 46 p.c for ladies.

“The development goes increasingly more for the pharmacological weight-reduction drugs,” stated Adil Sajwani, a household drugs guide doctor in Dubai who prescribes Ozempic and related medication “every day,” following U.S. Meals and Drug Administration pointers. Due to this new development, “the speed of bariatric surgical procedure goes down worldwide and even right here within the UAE,” he stated, referring to gastric bypass and different weight-loss surgical procedures.

Ozempic works by slowing digestion, Sajwani defined. Meals usually takes about six hours to go away the physique, however when Ozempic is run, “meals stays extra in your abdomen, so you’re feeling full.”

These weight-loss medication had been initially developed for Kind 2 diabetes, and now they may develop into one of many biggest-selling in pharmaceutical historical past. (Video: Luis Velarde, Brian Monroe/The Washington Put up)

These new medication are considerably simpler than previous weight problems drugs, in line with a rising physique of medical proof. A examine revealed within the New England Journal of Drugs in 2021 discovered that, on common, they led to a 15 p.c discount in physique weight.

Sajwani posts movies on TikTok and Instagram to promote his providers, which he credit with serving to to draw new sufferers: “50 p.c of my sufferers at the moment are for weight administration,” he stated.

In Qatar, provide chain points have led to a scarcity of Wegovy, so medical doctors have began prescribing Ozempic off label, in line with Ola Al Tai, operations and pharmacy supervisor at Al Tai Medical Middle in Doha.

“Understandably, within the face of the hovering demand, the mom firm, Novo Nordisk, has been unable to maintain up,” she stated. “This, coupled with cargo delays and restricted portions assigned to the licensed distributor in Qatar, has resulted in a nationwide scarcity.”

Al Tai stated this has prompted “excessive misery for diabetic sufferers. Many complain of driving round on the lookout for the drug in a number of pharmacies.” Some have needed to swap to different medication, she stated, and are struggling to cope with a brand new set of unwanted effects.

Provides additionally ran low within the UAE final 12 months. “Folks had been combating to get Ozempic,” Sajwani stated, although he famous that the scenario improved after Mounjaro, one other diabetes drug that’s getting used off label for weight reduction, was launched within the nation.

A 40-year-old man within the UAE advised The Washington Put up he began taking Mounjaro just lately, sharing his story on the situation of anonymity for worry of repercussions of talking to international media. He rapidly misplaced six kilos and has “not felt hungry in any respect,” he stated. His spouse and his mother-in-law are additionally taking it and have been happy with the outcomes.

However he has needed to journey to Saudi Arabia to seek out the drug, and is taking it and not using a prescription, a part of a development that has raised considerations within the medical neighborhood.

Sufferers grapple with unwanted effects of widespread weight-loss medication

The UAE, like the USA, runs below a federal system, that means every emirate has its personal set of laws. Within the two largest emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, sufferers want a prescription earlier than they’ll purchase Ozempic. Within the 5 different emirates, it’s offered over-the-counter.

“You may go to Sharjah and purchase Ozempic and not using a prescription, however should you go to the identical pharmacy chain in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, they are going to ask for a prescription,” Sajwani stated. This implies many individuals within the UAE are taking the drug with out medical supervision, he stated, and could also be unaware of the unwanted effects. “It might trigger extreme nausea for them, some gastrointestinal issues,” Sajwani famous, “however often it’s momentary.”

Novo Nordisk says gastrointestinal unwanted effects are gentle to average and are well-recognized.

Different potential unwanted effects are extra critical, stated Joseph El-Khoury, a psychiatrist in Dubai, as a result of the drug acts on the central nervous system.

“When you’ve got a psychiatric situation and also you wish to take this medicine, positively do it below medical supervision,” El-Khoury stated.

Al Tai agreed, saying medical analysis hasn’t been capable of maintain tempo with the explosive reputation of latest weight-loss medication. “This medicine was not supposed for these at a mean weight, nor was it examined and studied inside that group,” she stated.

Consulting with a doctor throughout remedy “is important,” she added.


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