“Trust me, without medications, I do not feel well at all” – Locals feel the pinch of diabetes drug shortage

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:

Like millions of Americans monitoring their blood sugar, Lee Quick is diabetic. For almost two decades, the Cape Coral man has relied on medications to manage his type 2 disease.

“Trust me, without medications, I do not feel well at all,” said Quick.

Over time, oral meds were not enough to keep Quick’s A1C numbers in check.

“They eventually just crept upward and upward. And my doctor, a couple of years ago, put me on Trulicity,” Quick said.

It worked well, until he couldn’t get it. Quick started feeling the pinch in January. The once-weekly shot was unavailable.

“They were unable to get the medication; it was back-ordered. When February came around, I checked back in, and they advised me it was still back ordered and we don’t know when we can get it,” said Quick.

Things are tough everywhere. The FDA put Trulicity on its shortage list late last year. Drug maker Lilly acknowledges that the high demand is taxing the system.

Trulicity is widely popular, not for its benefits to diabetics, but for its side effect: Weight loss. The drug is closely related to Ozempic, and so demand has ballooned.

“All the strengths that people are looking for are the ones that are not currently available,” said pharmacist Justin Ceravolo.

The owner of Cypress Pharmacy in South Fort Myers said he noticed Trulicity demand spike when Ozempic was in short supply. Like the powerful weight loss drug, Trulicity helps peel away pounds. As a result, it is often used as a substitute.

“What a lot of doctors were doing is, they were prescribing the higher doses for patients that really wanted weight loss,” Ceravolo said. “So now you’re running into they’re not making enough to supply the demand for people that actually need it, which are your true diabetics because people were using it off-label for weight loss.”

Ironically, Ceravolo has plenty of Ozempic in stock now. He expects the tide of weight watchers will shift back, allowing Quick and others access to access the drug they need.

“Once you restart this medication after being off for a while, it causes certain side effects that take about a week or so for my body to readjust,” said Quick.

Until supplies catch up with demand, the shortage will continue stressing the system and patients.

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