After physically debilitating cancer treatment, Laurie Brunner encountered another medical hurdle: She had developed lymphedema that required surgery, but her BMI was over the cutoff. To receive the necessary treatment, she would have to lose weight.
“But after everything I’ve been through, my body was just not having it,” she said. So she turned to Jody Dushay, an endocrinologist at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. After much discussion, the two decided that Laurie should try using weight loss medication — specifically, Wegovy — so she could become eligible for the surgery.
Before long, they had to grapple with the shortage of GLP-1 medications. “Within the first two months she had a good response,” Jody said. But “then there was the first round of shortages. … It looks like, you know, we’re heading towards that finish line. And then, ‘Oh, sorry, you can’t get it anymore.’”
On the “First Opinion Podcast,” I spoke with Jody and Laurie about how the ongoing shortages of GLP-1 medications are creating logistical and medical problems. Our conversation was based on Jody’s recent First Opinion essay, “How the Wegovy shortage is making life impossible for my patients — and for me.” We talked about the patient and provider perspective, the way stigma affects access to care, the ways weight loss medications are changing the medical system, and how the drug shortage is only part of the problem of access.