Popular weight loss drugs in tight supply as Zepbound shortage could last through June

Most doses of Wegovy and Zepbound have limited availability, the FDA says.

April 19, 2024, 3:55 PM

Shortages of popular weight loss medications are continuing amid an all-time high of drug scarcity in the United States.

Wegovy, made by Novo Nordisk, and Zepbound, made by Eli Lilly & Co., are in tight supply and may be hard to obtain for the next several months, according to the pharmaceutical companies.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its drug shortage database on Wednesday to reflect that most doses of Zepbound have limited availability due to "demand increase for the drug."

Currently, just the lowest dose of Zepbound is readily available. Patients typically start at the lowest dose and work their way up to higher doses.

The FDA anticipates limited availability through the end of the second financial quarter, meaning through at least June.

An injection pen of Zepbound is displayed in New York City, December 11, 2023.
Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

Zepbound, has the same active ingredient -- tirzepatide -- as the drug Mounjaro, which is also manufactured by Eli Lilly and also in shortage for nearly all doses.

Zepbound is specifically approved for weight loss for people with obesity, while Mounjaro is approved to manage blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes, along with diet and exercise.

Eli Lilly told ABC News it had experienced "unparalleled surge in demand" for these drugs and the company is "working with purpose and urgency to help meet the surge in demand."

Meanwhile, only the highest dose of Wegovy is available with the remaining doses in short supply and the shortage duration "to be determined," according to the FDA website.

Last year, Novo Nordisk began limiting the supply of starter doses of Wegovy after demand began outpacing supply and manufacturing capacity. Additionally, the company paused some marketing of the drug last year "to avoid stimulating further demand."

Similarly to the relationship between Zepbound and Mounjaro, Wegovy has the same active ingredient, semaglutide, as Ozempic. However, Ozempic is not approved for weight loss -- only for diabetes -- and is not in shortage.

"We are aware that another manufacturer has communicated supply shortages for its obesity medicine which may have implications for Wegovy demand," Novo Nordisk said in a statement to ABC News. "Our focus has and will continue to be on patients and doing what we can to ensure that people who start treatment can stay on treatment. That's why we have been thoughtfully managing shipments of Wegovy for the past year while we worked to increase our production capacity.

"We will continue to follow our plan to gradually increase overall supply throughout the rest of the year, but it's important to recognize that overall demand will continue to exceed supply," the statement continued. "This means that some patients may still have difficulty filling Wegovy prescriptions."

All four medications -- Wegovy, Ozempic, Mounjaro and Zepbound -- work by mimicking a hormone called GLP-1, which helps the body produce more insulin to lower blood sugar levels and slows digestion, all of which can help with weight loss. Mounjaro and Zepbound also work on a second hormone, GIP.

If your pharmacy runs out of either Wegovy or Zepbound, experts recommend reaching out to neighboring pharmacies, telehealth pharmacies or even Amazon Pharmacy. Earlier this year, Eli Lilly partnered with Amazon Pharmacy to help with home delivery of Zepbound and Mounjaro. Experts also recommend speaking with your provider who prescribed the medications to discuss other possible options.

The weight loss drug shortage comes amid an announcement from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and Utah Drug Information Service that drug shortages have reached an all-time high.

During the first three months of 2024, there were 323 active medication shortages, the highest since the ASHP started tracking in 2001. Previously, the record high was 320 shortages in 2014.