Exploring Semaglutide Access: A Closer Look at Compound Pharmacies Amidst Drug Shortages

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Dr. Germán Echeverry, MD

Exploring Semaglutide Access: A Closer Look at Compound Pharmacies Amidst Drug Shortages

You've probably heard a lot about Wegovy and Ozempic lately, and that's for a good reason – they've shown some great benefits for patients. However, many patients are having  trouble finding pharmacies that are able to fill their prescriptions resulting in a lot of frustration and occasionally missed doses. Additionally, these medications can be expensive, especially if you don't have insurance coverage or if your insurance won't cover the cost, resulting in a significant barrier to access.

As a result of the shortage, the FDA is allowing compounding pharmacies to make Semaglutide, the generic version of the main ingredient in medications like Ozempic and Wegovy. This allows patients another way to obtain these important medications. Compounded medications also happen to be less expensive than branded medications, allowing for greater access to patients who would otherwise be priced out.

I'm the Senior Medical Director at Zealthy, overseeing our Weight Loss program. People often ask me about the differences between medications like Wegovy or Ozempic and compounded semaglutide. We also hear questions about whether compounding pharmacies are safe. We've asked ourselves the same question and we've decided to provide access to compounded medications as long as the pharmacies we partner with meet our high standards for safety and quality.

At Zealthy, we're committed to helping you explore responsible options for weight loss therapies. We are able to help most of our patients obtain insurance authorization for coverage, and most patients are able to fill their prescriptions at retail pharmacies. But in cases where traditional insurance routes don't work, or you are finding it impossible to get your prescription filled, our partnership with our compounding pharmacy partners offers an alternative way to get the treatment you need

Here are some things to keep in mind when considering compound pharmacies for GLP-1 RA medication:

What Are Compound Pharmacies?

Compound pharmacies create personalized medications tailored to each patient’s needs. They're different from regular pharmacies because they can make medications that aren't available in standard forms. Compound pharmacies also help out when there's a shortage of a medication, like Ozempic and Wegovy. The FDA lets them make these medications even if they're still under patent.


How do I know if compound pharmacies are high-quality?

Ensuring the quality and safety of compound pharmacies is essential to protecting your health. It is important to look at the licensing and accreditation of a compound pharmacy. These factors can serve as indicators of commitment to upholding high-quality standards:

National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Accreditation: When a pharmacy has NABP accreditation, it means they follow specific rules set by groups like the FDA and USP. This also means they have passed the Verified Pharmacy Program (VPP) inspection.

LegitScript Certification: Companies can choose to become LegitScript certificated as a way to endorse the legitimacy of a healthcare / pharmaceutical business operating online. This certification means strict standards have to be met and there is regular monitoring of practices.

503A or 503B Designation: These pharmacies are monitored by state pharmacy boards and follow their guidelines. Additionally they are supervised nationally by the FDA to uphold their patient safety standards.

Upholding State Regulations: Each state has their own specific regulations for compound pharmacies to uphold. Some examples included but are not limited to, specific standards for producing medications and annual inspections.

Ingredients Sourcing: It is important to research or ask a compound pharmacy if they source their active pharmaceutical ingredients from FDA-registered facilities. Sourcing from FDA-registered facilities helps to ensure patient safety as it is closely monitored and regulated to the highest standard.

Compounded semaglutide does not go through the same approval and testing process as Ozempic or Wegovy because it is custom-made at each pharmacy. This means that the FDA had not evaluated the efficacy and safety of the semaglutide from compound pharmacies. This is why it is important to consider the factors listed above to make sure the medication you receive is safe and effective.

Patient safety is of utmost importance to me and to our entire team at Zealthy. At Zealthy, we partner exclusively with pharmacies holding accreditation from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, LegitScript certification, the 503A designation, and those undergoing regular inspections and evaluations by state boards of pharmacy. Additionally, our partners source raw materials only from FDA-registered manufacturers and distributors.    

Why Are Compound Pharmacies Cheaper for GLP-1 RA Medications?

Pharmaceutical companies spend a lot of money developing new medications, and sometimes these efforts don't succeed. When they do succeed, the price is often high to recover their costs and make a profit. The cost of the actual ingredients isn't the main reason for high prices. Compound pharmacies are more affordable because they don't have the same expenses as big pharmaceutical companies.

How much do GLP-1 RAs cost?

When considering how to pay for GLP-1 RA medications, various options are available that can significantly impact the costs associated with these treatments. If you have insurance, typically you will need to obtain prior authorization in order for your insurance company to cover the majority cost of a GLP-1 RA medication. Our coordination team at Zealthy is focused on doing this for our members. By leveraging the benefits of insurance coverage and the process of obtaining prior authorization, individuals can acquire GLP-1 RAs for monthly costs as low as $25. At Zealthy, most of our Weight Loss program patients who are taking GLP-1 RAs have received prior authorization and are getting their medications covered by their pharmacy benefits plan.

Another option for patients is compounded GLP1 RAs. Utilizing compound pharmacies introduces an alternative cost structure, with the approximate monthly cost for GLP-1 RA medications hovering around $100/month.

Those who navigate GLP-1 RA medications without the use of insurance coverage may encounter hefty costs. Opting for the traditional pharmacy route in the absence of insurance can potentially lead to monthly costs exceeding $1,000. This sizable difference highlights the substantial impact that insurance coverage and compounded pharmacy options can have, making the accessibility and affordability of GLP-1 RA medications a critical consideration for individuals navigating their treatment journey.

There is a wide range of costs for GLP-1 RA medications depending on insurance, prior authorization, compound pharmacies, and traditional dispensing channels. These factors significantly influence the financial impact for individuals seeking these treatments.

Your Zealthy provider and team will work with you to help you make an informed decision based on a comprehensive understanding of these factors. We are committed to finding what is right for you while working to meet your health needs and goals.

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