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Diabetes medication used as weight-loss drug facing shortage

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- A secret celebrity weight loss drug is growing in popularity and now causing a shortage for a group who needs it for medicinal purposes. 

The FDA originally approved semaglutide for diabetics because it regulates blood sugar. But its secondary benefit is weight loss, and now that the cat's out of the bag, it's getting harder to find the drug.

From TikTok to Facebook, semaglutide's all over -- that's the generic for Wegovy and Ozempic. Weight loss clinics are seeing the results.

"These patients were losing up to -- just doing a once-a-week injection, were losing up to 14% of their body weight without changing diet, without really changing their lifestyle," said Amanda Picord, RN, Illume Cosmetic Surgery & Medspa in Waukesha. 

Picord has her own weight loss journey, at her heaviest, 310 pounds. She didn't have semaglutide back then but thinks it's a great option for today.

"I think it motivates people because you're seeing the results, and I think it helps with the hunger cues because when we start to diet and we start to exercise, it's right here in the front of our brain," said Picord.

Ozempic and Wegovy are so popular right now, they're nearly impossible to find. Picord says the generic's easier to get -- at her clinic, going for $1,800 for a 12-week supply.

"They're all the same medication. It's Tylenol and Acetaminophen. One's a brand name, one's a generic name, same with semaglutide. It's the generic name of Ozempic and Wegovy," said Picord. 

But the shortage is upsetting diabetics who've come to rely on the drugs. Off camera, the American Diabetes Association spokesperson tells us the ADA "feels strongly that people who have a medical condition should have access to treatment."

Picord says diabetics should not be taking Ozempic and Wegovy for weight loss. Kidney disease and certain kinds of cancer patients should also be excluded.

Side effects include, "diarrhea, dehydration, constipation, vomiting... what we're seeing at the clinic, very minimum on that," said Picord.

Illume Cosmetic Surgery & Medspa in Waukesha credits patients' minimal side effects to the addition of Vitamin B12 they include with their generic form of the weight loss drug.

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