NEW ORLEANS — Patients in Louisiana can no longer get the less expensive version of a weight loss prescription.
It's used under medical supervision for those who have obesity or other weight-related chronic health issues.
Doctor's offices are getting hundreds of calls. We're also told some elected officials are concerned as well.
And keep in mind nearly 40% of people in Louisiana are considered obese. This is the third highest in the nation.
“I really believed when I found this, I said, ‘This is going to get rid of obesity, especially in Louisiana. We need that.’ I mean wouldn't my insurance rather me be thin and healthy than gain weight and have diabetes?” said Dawn Zachary.
She has struggled with her weight her entire life. And then she got on the prescription Wegovy, the injection proven to help you lose weight. The medication acts like the hormone in your brain that regulates appetite.
“Apparently they had a special deal that was $25 a month for the first six months. I lost 50 pounds. My diabetes went away. I was so healthy.”
The special deal ended. Insurance would not cover Wegovy, or Ozempic because her diabetes was gone. Her new cost was unaffordable, $1,300 a month. She gained most of the weight back. Then she turned to the same drug semaglutide, but mixed at a compounding pharmacy, not the brand name. That cost only $200 a month. Her weight went right back down.
“Then I went in to go get it filled this week, and they said the Board of Pharmacy has made them stop providing it, and I had really believed that this is a solution for the rest of my life. And now I can't get it, and I'm devastated. I'm just devastated.
The Louisiana Board of Pharmacy told compounding pharmacies in Louisiana, they can no longer mix up semaglutide. They told out-of-state compounding pharmacies they can't ship it to anyone in Louisiana. The same just happened in Mississippi, North Carolina, and West Virginia. All four are high obesity states.
The FDA approved semaglutide drugs of Ozempic for diabetes, and Wegovy for weight loss, have a no-salt formula. The cheaper compounded one is a salt formula. So, the argument is that technically the compounded version is not approved.
Dawn wrote to the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy.
“I just said you know, that has been a life-changing situation, that gave me hope, that I could live the rest of my life at a healthy weight.”
We contacted the state Board of Pharmacy to ask why the shutdown, especially at a time when we have reported on the Ozempic and Wegovy shortages. They said they did not want to have a phone conversation but to send questions via E-mail. We did and have not yet heard back.
We also contacted the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, the makers of Ozempic and Wegovy to ask if the less expensive version was cutting in to their sales. We did not hear back from the communications department.
So, can you have this shipped to someone out-of-state then mailed to you? One doctor said it is not a scheduled drug, so possibly, but it has to stay refrigerated.