McArthur raises concerns about diabetes medication shortage

18 Aug 2023

Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has written to Scotland’s Public Health Minister, Jenni Minto, to raise concerns about shortages of a crucial medication used to treat diabetes and the impact this is having on patients in Orkney and across the country.

The medication Semaglutide, brand name Ozempic, is licenced in the UK to support people with type 2 diabetes, helping them control the disease and manage their blood glucose levels. However, it has also seen widespread use by as a weight loss drug due to its impacts on appetite and digestion. This has created global supply shortages that are affecting diabetes patients reliant on Semaglutide as part of their regular treatment.

After being contacted a constituent facing a minimum six-month wait before their next prescription, as well as engaging with health officials locally, McArthur has written to the Minister to ask what steps are being taken to address the mismatch between supply and demand, as well as what action is being taken by governments and relevant authorities across the UK to identify and mitigate against future supply issues.

Commenting afterwards, Orkney’s MSP said:

“The use of semaglutide as a weight-loss treatment, notably in private clinics, is causing real difficulties for diabetes patients. With shortages in supply, GPs are finding it more and more difficult to prescribe medication best-suited to meeting the needs of their patients. Alternative drugs are available, but often these don’t deliver the same benefits so the potential consequences for patients, not just here in Orkney but across the UK who rely on this drug to control their diabetes, are serious.

“GPs and health officials I have spoken to locally have made clear their own concerns about this situation. Indeed, while this is a particularly acute example of the problem, it is apparently not uncommon for such shortages to emerge and regulatory levers to address the issue appear limited.

“I have therefore asked the Minister to set out details of the work the Scottish Government is undertaking, in partnership with UK counterparts and relevant authorities, to address this specific issue to ensure diabetes patients get access to the medication they require. I have also urged her to look at what steps might be taken to mitigate against future supply issues that potentially affect the treatment of those with chronic diseases.”