Increasingly difficult for diabetics to get their medicine

Bitte Holmblad is one of around 540,000 Swedes with diabetes type 2. For a year she took the medicine Ozempic, and felt very well from it, but since the medicine also proved effective for weight loss, production has fallen out of step with demand, with constant shortages as a result .

– In the beginning there was concern. Oops, there is no medicine. Can I take something else instead? Then it’s pure anger, when I have to pay full price for a medicine I have a prescription for, to the high-cost cover, she says.

“Incredibly idiotic”

A new survey from the Diabetes Association shows that the percentage of diabetics who have difficulty getting medicine increased last year, and is now 46 percent. A third of these have chosen to change medication, but 13 percent cannot do so and are completely without medication.

– It is very worrying, and we also see in the long term that it will increase the burden on the healthcare system. Not only in the short term, with more visits for the prescription of other drugs, but also the sequelae to come. And the suffering for the people who are left without medication and the diseases they risk contracting, says Björn Ehlin, chairman of the Swedish Diabetes Association.

Bitte Holmblad has been forced to switch to another medicine. She feels worse now, but above all she is angry that Ozempic is available in several pharmacies, but only at full price.
– It is so incredibly idiotic. If you have an illness, you must be able to get it out on a prescription that you have been prescribed.

Great success

The manufacturer Novo Nordisk has invested 6.5 billion dollars to increase the production capacity of both Ozempic and the weight loss drug Wegovy, with the same active substance. The sales success has made Novo Nordisk Europe’s highest valued listed company.

In Sweden, one of the seven companies that supply Ozempic has decided to do so outside the high-cost protection, with the argument that the company does not receive coverage for its costs within the benefit system, with current prices.

– It deviates from the principle that those with the greatest need should get access, because suddenly it’s about how well you have finances and whether you can afford to collect the medicine, as there is completely free pricing, says Björn Ehlin.

The call to the doctors not sufficient

In December, the Swedish Medicines Agency urged Swedish doctors not to prescribe Ozempic for weight loss, but that is not enough, says the diabetes association, which wants the government, regions and responsible authorities to act to better regulate drug handling.

– We do not have a preparedness for drug shortages. Neither that we have stocks of medicines, nor that the healthcare system is prepared for how they should prioritize when a shortage occurs, notes Björn Ehlin.

Bitte Holmblad is angry at both the pharmaceutical companies and the distribution system:

– I think it is completely wrong that this medicine should be used for weight loss, when it is for diabetics. The ones who lose from that are us patients, who walk around feeling bad.