The TGA has approved the Wegovy formulation for weight management but stocks are yet to arrive in Australia.
A semaglutide formulation has been approved by the TGA specifically for use in chronic weight management.
And while the approval of Wegovy is tipped to eventually relieve some of the pressure on the type 2 diabetes drug Ozempic (also semaglutide), the new drug is not yet available in Australia and its manufacturer hasn’t announced when it will be.
Ozempic is not listed for weight loss, but recent hype over its effectiveness in that area has resulted in extensive off-label prescriptions and a nationwide shortage. This shortage was expected to be resolved in August but is now predicted to last into early next year.
Both Ozempic and Wegovy are made by Novo Nordisk and are formulated with the same active ingredient, semaglutide, but their different approved indications, uses, dosages and devices render them non-interchangeable.
A spokesman for Novo Nordisk told The Medical Republic the manufacturer was “working hard to make Wegovy (semaglutide 2.4mg) available for patients living with obesity as soon as possible”.
“The timing of its availability in Australia is not yet confirmed,” he said.
In a statement, he confirmed Wegovy had been registered by the TGA as an adjunct to a reduced-energy diet and increased physical activity for chronic weight management, including weight loss and weight maintenance, in adults with an initial BMI of:
- at least 30kg/m2 (obesity), or
- 27kg/m2 to 30kg/m2 (overweight) in the presence of at least one weight-related comorbidity.
Semaglutide is a GLP-1 receptor agonist which functions by increasing insulin secretion and reducing glucagon secretion. The solution is administered by subcutaneous self-injection.
Ozempic is approved in Australia for use in patients with insufficiently controlled T2D, either as a monotherapy when metformin is not tolerated or is contraindicated or in addition to other medicinal products for treatment of the condition.
Common side effects of semaglutide include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and constipation.
In a statement, the TGA said that due to the ongoing limited access to Ozempic, GPs should prioritise availability of the drug to patients with T2D to facilitate continuity of care.
If possible, medical professionals are recommended to consider other alternatives before prescribing Ozempic, to avoid the uncertainty associated with obtaining the drug within a suitable time frame, the TGA said.