Pharmacy Out of Ozempic? Here's Exactly What To Do

Ozempic and other weight loss medications like Wegovy, Zepbound and Mounjaro are more popular than ever. While it's great that we're nixing the stigma, it comes with a caveat: There are shortages of these drugs, making life increasingly difficult for patients who may need them. The scarcity has gotten so bad that in some countries, they're actually being rationed.

What should you do if your pharmacy is out of the weight loss prescription that you need? We got weight loss doctors to give the goods on exactly how to manage.

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What Should You Do if Your Pharmacy Is Out of Ozempic or Your Other Prescribed Weight Loss Drug?

If your pharmacy is one of the many with a shortage of weight loss drugs, you're not out of luck.

If you normally get your prescriptions from a chain pharmacy (think CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens and the like), Dr. Mir Ali, MD, board-certified bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, suggests asking your pharmacist to find the medication at another location in their system. "An alternative would be a legitimate weight loss center that may be able to obtain the medication from other sources," Dr. Ali notes.

If there aren't any nearby carrying what you need, you still have some options.

"If your preferred pharmacy is out of your particular GLP-1 medication, there are plenty of mail-order pharmacies and independent neighborhood pharmacies that may carry the drug," Dr. Katrina Mattingly, MD, chief medical officer of Options Medical Weight Loss, tells Parade. "Also, I've found that while large commercial chain pharmacies are convenient, they typically carry prescription drugs at higher prices. Looking into a mail-order pharmacy or your neighborhood pharmacy truly is worth your time."

Another option Dr. Mattingly says may be worth considering if your medication is out of stock is a compounding pharmacy, which can combine drugs for patients with specific needs.

"Currently, compounding pharmacies have the green light from the FDA to fill in the gap on some GLP-1 medications that are on the drug shortage list," she says. "If you choose to visit a weight management clinic that treats with compounded GLP-1 medication, ask for the name of the compounding pharmacy to ensure they have the proper certifications and ask to see the certificate of analysis, which any reputable weight management practice will have on file."

Related: Thinking About Trying Ozempic? Here's What You Can Expect Week by Week

Should You Use Smaller Doses of Ozempic or Weight Loss Prescriptions if Your Pharmacy Is Out of It?

You know the horror stories of patients rationing insulin? That's not recommended, and it's also not recommended to ration your own weight loss prescription meds, either.

"Lower doses may not be as effective for many patients," Dr. Ali advises. "The medication is designed to start at a low dose and increase every four weeks to minimize side effects." As a result, "Some patients do not feel the effect of the medication at lower doses."

Dr. Mattingly concurs. "Cutting the dose may jeopardize the optimal outcomes for which we aim. This then causes patient frustration and compromises the plan laid out by the care team," she says.

If a friend or family member is also short on their Rx, Dr. Mattingly urges you not to be generous with your own. Sharing may be caring, but not when it comes to needles or prescription drugs.

"Please do not share medication prescribed specifically for you with another person or share needles," she warns. "There is a risk for negative events in patients not counseled in taking this drug class, and sharing needles risks infections such as cellulitis, HIV and hepatitis."

Related: What Is 'Ozempic Face'?

What Can Happen if You Miss a Dose of Ozempic or Other Weight Loss Medication?

If you miss a dose of your weight loss meds due to the shortage, don't panic. "If patients are not able to take the drugs immediately, they should be OK for another seven to 10 days," Dr. Mattingly says. "The half-life of semaglutide, for example (Ozempic, Wegovy), is about seven days, which is why it needs to be injected only once a week."

Dr. Mattingly says some weight loss injections can stay in your system for up to 80 days (yes, 8-0) before they're eliminated. That said, going longer than that can get dicey in terms of your weight loss goals, so you'll want to make sure you're keeping up with your diet and workouts.

"Patients who stop the medication can see weight regain if they have not adopted significant dietary and lifestyle changes," Dr. Ali says. "Also, if the patient stops the medication for some time, they may have to begin again at a lower dose." This is because if you're off the prescription for long enough, you may be susceptible to side effects if you start again at your regular dose.

Related: 'Ozempic Boob' Is Actually Pretty Common—Here's What It Is, and How to Know If You Have It

If Your Pharmacy Is Out of Ozempic, Is It OK to Use Wegovy or Mounjaro Instead?

A lot of weight loss prescriptions work similarly with similar ingredients, but does that mean it's OK to swap one in for another in a pinch?

That depends, according to Dr. Mattingly—some ingredients are different, and your insurance may not cover certain brands, but you may be able to transition to a new prescription under your doctor's care if necessary due to the shortages.

"Ozempic and Wegovy are both semaglutide. There is a slight variation in the maximum dose as one is FDA-approved for diabetes mellitus, and one is FDA-approved for weight loss, respectively," she explains. "If your pharmacy is out of one or the other, your physician may be willing to prescribe the other medication with the proper dosing adjustment. Be aware, however, that if your insurance covers Ozempic (FDA-approved for diabetes), it may not approve Wegovy (FDA-approved for weight loss) and vice versa."

Another exception is Mounjaro, which Mattingly says is a mixture of two active medications, because there currently is no substitute for it.

Next, This Is Why You May Not Lose Weight on Ozempic