Wegovy shortage: 5 Wegovy alternatives

Reviewed by Felix Gussone, MD, Ro, 

Written by Amelia Willson 

Reviewed by Felix Gussone, MD, Ro, 

Written by Amelia Willson 

last updated: May 31, 2023

5 min read

Key takeaways

  • While there is a shortage of certain dosages of Wegovy, there are other medications available that may be good alternatives for weight loss.

  • Other GLP-1 agonists, like Saxenda, Mounjaro, and Trulicity use the same mechanism of action as Wegovy but may differ in effectiveness and potential side effects.

  • There are also other classes of weight loss medications, which include medications like Contrave and Qsymia, that can help people lose weight as well.

If you’ve been considering Wegovy for weight loss, you may be wondering how you can get it, especially when there’s a Wegovy drug shortage. We explain what the Wegovy shortage means for people starting Wegovy as well as those already on the medication, and suggest alternatives for weight loss you can ask your healthcare provider about.

What is Wegovy?

Wegovy (semaglutide) is a prescription injectable medication that is highly effective for weight loss when combined with exercise and a reduced-calorie diet in people with overweight or obesity. On average, people lose nearly 15% of their body weight within a year and a half of starting Wegovy. 

As a GLP-1 receptor agonist, Wegovy works by mimicking GLP-1, a hormone found naturally in your body that helps regulate your appetite and blood sugar. GLP-1 sends signals to your brain to tell you when you’re full, and some research suggests it may even change your appetite for certain foods. Wegovy also slows digestion by delaying how quickly food leaves your stomach, so you feel full sooner and longer. As a result, people taking Wegovy tend to eat less and lose weight. 

Wegovy may be prescribed to people with obesity (defined as a BMI of 30 or higher) or those who are overweight (BMI of 27 or higher) and have a weight-related health condition, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol

Each pen of Wegovy contains a single dose of the medication, which you inject once a week under the skin of your abdomen, thigh, or upper arm. To start, health providers typically prescribe a lower 0.25 milligram (mg) dose of Wegovy once a week. Then, every four weeks, they’ll have you increase the dosage until you reach the maximum dosage of 2.4 mg weekly. 

Wegovy is safe and well-tolerated by most people, but it is not for everybody. People with a personal or family history of thyroid cancer should not take Wegovy. Some people may be more likely to experience side effects when using Wegovy, including those with type 2 diabetes, pancreatitis, or kidney or gallbladder problems. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are the most common side effects of Wegovy, and tend to be more frequent when you are first starting Wegovy.

Wegovy Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

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Is there a Wegovy shortage?

Yes, there is currently a Wegovy shortage that is expected to last at least through September 2023. Novo Nordisk, the makers of Wegovy, announced the shortage in early May. While the company is doing what it can to ramp up production, demand is outpacing supply, and they expect the Wegovy shortage to last through the end of the summer. Specifically, the company warned that there is a shortage of the 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, and 1 mg strengths of Wegovy. They don’t expect any supply interruptions for the 1.7 mg and 2.4 mg strengths.

What does this mean for you? It depends. People who are looking to start Wegovy may have a tougher time doing so, since the shortage is impacting the initial dosage strengths prescribed at the beginning of treatment. 

Those who have been taking Wegovy may have already increased their dosage to the 1.7 mg or 2.4 mg strengths, so they may not have as much difficulty getting their prescription filled. Novo Nordisk recommends contacting your pharmacy for a refill at least 1–2 weeks earlier than you normally would, just to be safe.

Whatever your situation, contacting your healthcare provider about how the Wegovy shortage may impact you may be a good idea.

Wegovy alternatives

There are several alternatives you can take instead of Wegovy to lose weight, including other GLP-1 drugs that are FDA-approved for type 2 diabetes, as well as prescription appetite suppressants. Some of those medications may be prescribed off-label for weight loss.

1. Saxenda (liraglutide)

Like Wegovy, Saxenda (liraglutide) is a GLP-1 receptor agonist, so it works similarly and has similar gastrointestinal side effects. One key difference between these two medications is how often you inject them: Saxenda is a daily medication, while Wegovy is weekly

In a large-scale review of over 20 randomized controlled trials, the highest dose of Wegovy (2.4 mg) consistently outperformed the highest dose of Saxenda (3.0 mg) when it came to weight loss, with those taking semaglutide losing more than twice as much weight as those taking Saxenda. Still, people taking Saxenda lose a significant amount of weight — about 5% to 7.5% of their body weight in one year — and they often experience fewer side effects than those using Wegovy.

Another, lower-dose version of liraglutide (the active ingredient in Saxenda) is marketed as Victoza. This medication is FDA-approved to treat type 2 diabetes, but may be prescribed off-label for weight loss as well. People taking Victoza lose around 2% of their body weight in one year.

Saxenda Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

2. Other GLP-1 medications 

While Saxenda and Wegovy are the only GLP-1 agonists specifically FDA-approved for weight loss, other GLP-1 medications can also result in weight loss, and may be prescribed off-label for this purpose. For example, Ozempic (semaglutide) contains the same active ingredient as Wegovy, but is prescribed in slightly lower dosage amounts (the maximum dose of Ozempic is 2 mg weekly, as compared to 2.4 mg weekly for Wegovy) and is indicated for type 2 diabetes. Other options include:

  • Mounjaro (tirzepatide): Tirzepatide works similarly to the other drugs in the GLP-1 medication family, but it is unique in that it mimics the effects of not just one, but two hormones: GLP-1, and also GIP. It seems to be more effective at producing weight loss. There hasn’t been a study comparing Wegovy and Mounjaro for weight loss directly. However, in a study of people with type 2 diabetes, the highest doses of Mounjaro produced more weight loss than the highest doses of Ozempic.

  • Trulicity (dulaglutide): Like Wegovy, Trulicity is a weekly injectable medication. In studies of people with type 2 diabetes and obesity or overweight, people lose about half as much weight when taking dulaglutide vs. semaglutide, even on the lower doses of semaglutide.

  • Tanzeum (albiglutide): Like many GLP-1 medications, Tanzeum comes in a prescription pen you inject each week. Albiglutide does produce some weight loss, but to a lesser extent than the other GLP-1s on this list.

Ozempic Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

Mounjaro Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

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3. Qsymia (phentermine/topiramate)

Qsymia (phentermine/topiramate) is a stimulant that promotes weight loss when used with a low-calorie diet and exercise. Studies show that people lose about 5% of their body weight within five months of starting Qsymia.

Qsymia is an oral medication you take once a day, in the morning, with or without food. Because it is a stimulant and boosts energy, you shouldn’t take it at night. Common side effects are feelings of tingling or prickling, dizziness, changes in taste, insomnia, constipation, and dry mouth. Qsymia should not be taken by people who are pregnant or those who have glaucoma or thyroid conditions.

Also, one of the main ingredients in Qsymia is phentermine, a Schedule IV controlled substance, which means this drug carries a risk of abuse and dependence.

4. Contrave (naltrexone/bupropion)

Contrave (naltrexone/bupropion) is another FDA-approved weight loss pill. You take it twice a day by mouth. Contrave produces slightly less weight loss than Qsymia: 2.6% vs. 3.6% of body weight within three months, according to one study. 

Side effects also tend to be more troublesome with Contrave than with Qsymia, and may include nausea, constipation, headache, vomiting, dizziness, insomnia, dry mouth, diarrhea, or suicidal thoughts. But, your mileage may vary.

Contrave should not be used by people with uncontrolled hypertension, seizure disorders, anorexia, or bulimia. Contrave should not be mixed with certain medications, and is not recommended for people using opioids or anyone who recently quit using alcohol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and other drugs. 

5. Xenical (orlistat)

Xenical (orlistat) helps reduce your body’s absorption of fat, which makes it effective at helping people lose weight. People taking Orlistat lose about 2% of their body weight within five months, and 5% or more over the long term. 

Like many weight loss medications, Xenical has several gastrointestinal side effects, including flatulence (sometimes with oily spottings), diarrhea, loose or greasy stool, and frequent or uncontrollable bowel movements. Xenical should not be taken by people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as people with certain health conditions or using certain medications, like blood thinners. 

Like Qsymia and Contrave, Xenical is an oral medication. It is taken three times a day, with a meal.

If you’re concerned the Wegovy shortage may affect your access to the drug, contact your health provider. Ask them about your options and whether another alternative medication works for you.

DISCLAIMER

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

May 31, 2023

Written by

Amelia Willson

Fact checked by

Felix Gussone, MD


About the medical reviewer

Felix Gussone is a physician, health journalist and a Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.

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