Tirzepatide, the drug in the diabetes medication Mounjaro, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for weight loss, under the name Zepbound.
- Zepbound is anticipated to be available by the end of 2023.
- An appointment will be required to discuss starting this medication.
- It is your responsibility to find out if Zepbound will be covered by your insurance by doing an online formulary search or calling your insurance provider.
- While it will take time for Zepbound to be officially added to formularies, checking to see whether currently available injected weight loss medications Wegovy and Saxenda are covered is helpful.
- Coupons to reduce cost/copay will be available.
- Additional information can be found on the Zepbound website.
There is a nationwide shortage of several weight loss medications. Below is important information we hope you will find helpful as we navigate this temporary shortage. Please know that we will continue to do everything we can to help you maintain a healthy body weight and will continue to work with you to provide the best possible weight management care.
About weight loss medication shortages
- Saxenda and Wegovy are the only GLP-1 medications (“weight loss shots”) approved by the FDA for weight loss in people with obesity. There are currently nationwide shortages of both Wegovy and Saxenda. These issues are expected to continue into 2024 and possibly longer.
- Samples of these medications are not available.
- We are extremely limited in our ability to write new-start prescriptions for either Wegovy or Saxenda and cannot guarantee continued availability for patients currently taking either medication.
- Coverage of related medications (such as Ozempic, Victoza, Trulicity and Mounjaro) for patients with obesity who do not have diabetes is very limited. We are also experiencing shortages of some of these medications.
- There are no true generic versions of Ozempic or Wegovy. We do not recommend use of compounded versions of these medications.
- Other effective weight loss medications that reduce appetite and control cravings are available. Please schedule an office visit to discuss these options.
Why is there a shortage?
High demand for these medications has exceeded the manufacturers’ ability to meet production needs. For Wegovy, the manufacturer, Novo Nordisk, has focused production on higher doses in an attempt to meet the needs of patients currently taking it, making the lower, starting doses almost impossible to find.
Filling and refilling prescriptions
We cannot guarantee continued availability of Saxenda or Wegovy for patients currently taking them. We can continue to send refills with the knowledge that delays and lack of availability are likely. A small number of patients have been able to get prescriptions for the starting doses of Wegovy filled, but this has required extensive effort on their part, calling multiple different pharmacies. If one pharmacy is unable to fill your prescription, you may be able to contact other pharmacies to see if it is available and have the original pharmacy transfer the prescription. We do not receive information about availability at specific pharmacies/pharmacy chains and due to the large number of patients affected are unable to help in this process.
For patients who are currently taking Wegovy and have access to the medication, you can spread out dosing from every 7 days to every 10 days. For patients currently taking Saxenda and with access to the medication, you can decrease the dose to stretch your supply.
For patients who do not have diabetes, stopping these medications abruptly is not harmful; however, stopping treatment with Saxenda or Wegovy will likely result in weight regain over time.
Patients with diabetes
For patients with type 2 diabetes, stopping Saxenda or Wegovy may cause increased blood glucose and require a higher dose of diabetes medications that are already being taken or require starting a new diabetes medicine. Other GLP-1 medications approved by the FDA for diabetes, such as Ozempic, Victoza and Trulicity, are potential options. Blood sugars should be monitored, and you should follow up with the physician who manages your diabetes.
Other effective weight loss medications that reduce appetite and control cravings are available and may be used to help achieve further weight loss or maintain weight loss achieved with Saxenda or Wegovy. Discussion of these will require an appointment to ensure appropriate management. The following resources offer information about the other medications available:
There is hope on the horizon in the form of several new weight loss medications currently in development. These include different types of GLP-1 medications, which are anticipated to be available in oral form and at lower cost.
Generic and compounded medications
There are no true generic versions of Ozempic or Wegovy. There are a number of online services as well as local businesses offering compounded medications claimed to be the same as Wegovy and Ozempic; however, we do not recommend use of these compounded drugs. The FDA and Obesity Medicine Association can provide further details.
Weight loss medications are exclusions on many insurance plans. When a medication is not on formulary, a prior authorization is not an option. We can provide you with a letter that may be submitted to your employer requesting that they cover these medications.
Insurance coverage of medications such as Ozempic and Trulicity for patients with obesity who do not have diabetes is very limited regardless of other factors (such as other related medical conditions). We are now starting to see withdrawal of previously approved coverage. Even when a medication is “covered” by your plan, that does not mean it is covered for everybody. Front-line contacts at insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) may suggest that “your provider just needs to submit an appeal,” but we have not had success with getting such denials overturned with appeal letters. Due to the lack of success and the large number of patients involved, we are no longer able to submit appeals. We can provide a template for a letter that you may submit on your own.