Trend Snapshot: The Ozempic Weight Loss Craze Continues as Shortages Persist
The record surge in prescriptions of GLP-1 drugs for patients without diabetes showed no signs of slowing through the first half of 2023
The pharmacological weight loss trend of the decade is still making headlines as Ozempic and other GLP-1 drugs continue to grow in popularity among people without diabetes who want to lose weight. It’s rare for a drug to skyrocket into popular culture as this one has: Since its popularization on social media, Ozempic has been mentioned at the Oscars and has received a number of unofficial celebrity endorsements. As the choir of voices singing Ozempic’s praises grows, so do the number of stories reporting anecdotes of unanticipated side effects, both positive and negative. However, governing bodies are still investigating the long-term effects of GLP-1 drugs; the European Medicines Agency’s safety committee recently expanded an investigation into these drugs after a small number of patients taking them reported suicidal ideation.
In February, we published an analysis quantifying the surge of the most popular GLP-1 drugs from 2019 to 2022. We found a 2,082% increase in prescriptions for insured patients in the U.S. who do not have diabetes. We found that women ages 45 to 64 were the largest patient group to have received prescriptions and that nurse practitioners had written more prescriptions than any other prescribing provider speciality to this group.
In the first analysis of its kind to track prescription rates of claims this year, we used our Healthcare Map™ to expand our previous work and see how this trend has evolved through the first five months of 2023. Here is the most up-to-date snapshot on this popular trend:
Between January and May of 2023, 5.58 million prescriptions were written for GLP-1 drugs for people without diabetes.
In 2022, just over 7 million prescriptions for GLP-1s were written for adults without diabetes, up from 1.3 million in 2019. In the first five months of 2023, prescriptions were already approaching those numbers. Prescriptions for 13 GLP-1 drugs were included in this analysis: Ozempic, Mounjaro, Wegovy, Rybelsus, Tanzeum, Trulicity, Bydureon, Byetta, Saxenda, Victoza, Xultophy, Adlyxin, and Soliqua.
White patients were more likely than other racial or ethnic groups to receive a prescription for one of the top four GLP-1 drugs.
Among patients prescribed any of the top four drugs (Ozempic, Mounjaro, Wegovy, Rybelsus) between 2021 and 2022, 65% were non-Hispanic White and 14% were Hispanic or Latino. For comparison, only 59% of the U.S. population is White, and just over 19% of the U.S. population identifies as Hispanic or Latino. Prescriptions were proportional with population sizes for other racial groups: Black patients made up 12% of both the population and prescriptions received, 3% were Asian, and 7% were “Other.”
GLP-1 prescriptions have also risen among teenagers, but the trend in this group appears to be slowing as of 2023.
Teenagers (ages 13 to 18) received less than 0.5% of prescriptions written for the top four GLP-1 drugs to patients without diabetes between 2018 and May 2023. However, while teens accounted for 0.3% of prescriptions in 2018 and 0.4% in 2021, this dropped to 0.3% in the first five months of 2023. A similar trend was seen among young adults ages 18 to 25 without diabetes, who made up 2.4% of prescriptions in 2018, steadily increasing to 3.2% in 2022 before dropping to 2.7% in 2023. Wegovy was the only drug with a 2023 increase in this young adult group.
Some of these increases may be explained by the more recent approval of Wegovy (2021) and Mounjaro (2022). Given the high rate of obesity in the teenage population, it will be valuable to track how recent approvals and label expansions impact this group. Wegovy, for example, was only expanded to ages 12 to 17 in December 2022.
This analysis is the first of its kind to show the most up-to-date 2023 prescription data. It is important to note that these insights reflect trends based on insurance claims. The number of uninsured patients without diabetes on these medications, along with those with insurance but who choose to pay out of pocket, is likely high. This could mean that there are significantly more individuals using these medications than what is captured here.
Komodo Health’s platform offers prescription tracking in near real-time, unlocking the capacity to follow healthcare trends as they unfold. Stakeholders need the most robust and up-to-date information as they respond to the ripple effects of the Ozempic boom, which impacts both population health and safety as well as the resulting supply-chain issues. Insights from Komodo Health’s software and real-world evidence can help to shed up-to-the-moment light on a trend that could affect patient lives for years to come.