Healthy Lifestyle

Price increase, limited purchase! Hypoglycemic drugs are sold out as “diet magic drugs”, but diabetic patients are hard to find

The source of this article: Times Finance Author: Zhang Yuqi

Image source: Tu Wo Creative

Affordable price, simple to use, and outstanding effect. Although the hypoglycemic drug semaglutide injection has not yet been approved for weight loss indications in China, various weight loss experts have rushed to the front line. The rush is only for a moment.

Times Finance and Economics found that after the offline pharmacies in some regions were out of stock in July this year, the “semigrutide”, the “magic slimming drug”, was out of stock in some internet platform pharmacies. tide.

Semaglutide is a novel long-acting glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analog developed by Novo Nordisk (NVO.NYSE), first introduced in 2017 It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2009 for use as an adjunct to diet control and exercise to improve glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes. In June 2021, the FDA approved the drug for chronic weight management in obese or overweight adults. In China, semaglutide was launched in April 2021, and the currently approved indication is only type 2 diabetes.

After becoming popular through the weight loss trend, shortages and price increases have affected the availability of semaglutide for patients with type 2 diabetes, resulting in patients who have medical insurance but cannot be reimbursed. You can only buy drugs at a premium on the market. Behind the out of stock, it is inextricably linked with the production capacity of semaglutide and the “miracle effect” of weight loss.

The platform is out of stock, and the purchase price should be doubled

In the past week, Han Li (pseudonym) encountered a “stock-out crisis” of semaglutide.

Han Li’s family suffers from type 2 diabetes and started using semaglutide this year, once a week as prescribed by the doctor. As a prescription drug, semaglutide must be prescribed by a clinician with prescribing authority to purchase and use it. Because the big hospital is far away and the small hospital has no medicine, Han Li’s family, who lives in a capital city in the northeast, can only buy medicines through the Internet platform.

Han Li told Times Finance that in a large hospital, the price of a 1.5ml dose of semaglutide (1.34mg/ml) is 478.8 yuan, which is cheaper after local reimbursement of medical insurance. The same dose, usually purchased on the Internet platform costs about 640 yuan (including needles and cold chain transportation). Although this price is much more expensive than that of a large hospital, it is within an acceptable range.

However, Han Li found that it has become difficult to buy medicines recently. The medicines in the stores that I often buy are out of stock. When I search for medicines in other stores in the mall, each medicine is at least 20 yuan more expensive than usual.

Times Finance conducted an inquiry on an Internet platform and found that as of the publication date, the minimum price of 1.5ml dose of semaglutide has risen to 680 yuan (excluding needles and shipping costs), and Some pharmacies show that they can be shipped after 30 days, and the price will need to be increased by about 100 yuan if expedited; the price of a 3ml dose of semaglutide ranges from 1,300 yuan to 1,500 yuan, while the same dose in the hospital is priced at 814 yuan.

Grey deals even more. Some consumers reported on social platforms that in addition to pharmacies, hospitals, and Internet platforms, semaglutide can also be purchased through agent channels, but the price has almost doubled, and the price of a 1.5ml dose exceeds 1,000 yuan. Another consumer mentioned that some beauty salons use semaglutide to make money, 550 yuan per time, 2,200 yuan a month.

Supply less than demand, semaglutide “out of the circle”

Semaglutide is popular all over the world as Novo Nordisk’s flagship product.

This year, semaglutide has reached a new level with record sales. In the first quarter, global sales of semaglutide reached US$1.829 billion (approximately RMB 12.818 billion), surpassing dulaglutide, known as the “Sugar King” for the first time, whose sales was US$1.741 billion (approximately RMB 12.818 billion). 12.2 billion yuan). In terms of weight loss indications, global sales of liraglutide and semaglutide also reached US$517 million (approximately RMB 3.623 billion).

In China, in April 2021, semaglutide was approved by the State Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of adult type 2 diabetes and the reduction of cardiovascular adverse events in patients with T2DM complicated by cardiovascular disease Risk; in December, the drug was included in the national medical insurance to reduce the burden on diabetic patients.

Semaglutide swept the Chinese market once it was launched. In about half a year, sales reached as high as 46 million US dollars (about 322 million yuan).

The numbers are great, but when sales far exceed expectations, capacity and sales begin to struggle to match.

Times Finance has learned that some hospitals in China only have 1.5ml dose of semaglutide, while 3ml dose of semaglutide is only available in some pharmacies and Internet platforms.

Semaglutide shortages are global.

Novo Nordisk has mentioned many times in the announcement that the market demand for semaglutide has greatly exceeded expectations, and some doses are also in short supply. It said, “We will try our best to restore all dose supply in the second half of 2022 and increase production capacity in 2023, but no specific date can be determined at this time.”

Semaglutide weight loss indications are still in the phase III clinical stage in China, and they are popular before approval, which further increases the production capacity consumption of the drug.

This is also confirmed in some hospitals. Times Finance learned from the non-endocrinology department of a tertiary hospital in Beijing that the prescription rights of semaglutide are currently limited, and the non-endocrinology department has no prescription rights for the time being. “Because it can lose weight, this medicine is very popular recently. It used to be prescribed in all departments, but now it is not allowed. The hospital is very short of stock.” Doctor Huang Di told Times Finance.

The magic pill for weight loss, available to everyone?

Since last year, the voice that GLP-1 hypoglycemic drugs such as semaglutide and liraglutide can reduce weight has spread all over the Internet, and the waves are getting higher and higher. But in fact, this Internet celebrity “weight loss magic medicine” may not be suitable for everyone.

On the social platform Xiaohongshu, terms such as “Slimming Needle Use Progress Post”, “Slimming Needle Purchase Post” and “Successful Weight Loss Post” rank high on the search keyword “semaglutide” top of the page.

Li Wei, an endocrinologist at a tertiary-grade hospital in Northeast China, told Times Finance that whether or not semaglutide can lose weight varies from person to person. Its main function is to inhibit gastric emptying. Some people lost dozens of pounds, and some people didn’t lose a pound.

As of press time, Times Finance found on the social platform that the popular science videos and texts of “weight loss needles” have gradually increased. Many doctors said on the platform that “weight loss needles” may not really lose weight. The effect varies from person to person, and it is contraindicated in many people. For example, semaglutide is contraindicated in patients with type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus), and GLP-1 has never been a substitute for insulin. In addition, the doctor’s advice should be followed when using semaglutide (applicable to weight loss and diabetes). The drug itself has adverse reactions such as diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, and must not be used blindly.

Medical Rubik’s Cube data shows that on August 26, semaglutide has completed the Phase III clinical trial for weight loss indications in China. Registry data indicates that the drug will be used as adjunctive therapy to a low-calorie diet and increased physical activity for initial body mass index (BMI) ≥30kg/m2 (obesity), or ≥27kg/m2 and

2 (overweight) adult patients with at least one overweight-related comorbidity.

In other words, even if you are obese, you may not be able to lose weight with semaglutide.

The “business experience” of losing weight has been ups and downs for many years, and there has never been a shortage of markets. On September 6, the State Food and Drug Administration approved the clinical application of semaglutide tablets for weight loss indications, adding another “cake” to the weight loss market.

However, rather than losing weight, Han Li’s family wants to know whether the supply of semaglutide can sink to the county medical market to solve the current problem of difficult medication.

This may still have to wait for the expansion of Novo Nordisk to really realize it.

(At the request of the interviewee, Han Li, Huang Di and Li Wei are all pseudonyms)