Is there a Trulicity shortage in the US?

Updated on March 28, 2023

Imagine attempting to renew your prescribed medication that treats a serious disease, but learning the medication isn’t available due to a supply shortage. Recent drug shortages began with another type 2 diabetes drug, Ozempic, around late 2021, then grew to include Rybelsus. Next, Trulicity was added to the shortages list. In contrast, neither insulin nor metformin showed signs of shortages. So, what happened to make Trulicity difficult to find? The answer is because of one useful effect of taking Trulicity.

What is Trulicity?

Trulicity is a brand-name medication that helps adults manage type 2 diabetes. Perhaps you’ve seen Trulicity commercials, or a healthcare provider recommended Trulicity in addition to exercise and diet as a possible treatment option to help manage type 2 diabetes. 

Trulicity contains the drug dulaglutide, classified as a GLP-1 receptor agonist. Trulicity is manufactured by Eli Lilly, and was FDA approved in 2014. It’s an adjunct to diet and exercise for improved glycemic control to help adults living with type 2 diabetes. Trulicity is injected (weekly), just like insulin is injected (daily), but Trulicity is different from insulin.

In addition to helping lower blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes, Trulicity can also reduce the risk of major cardiovascular disease in adults with type 2 diabetes when certain conditions are met.

In non-diabetics, the hormone GLP-1 is naturally occurring. GLP-1 activates communication across the brain, gut, pancreas, stomach, liver, and heart. For individuals with type 2 diabetes, medications like Trulicity mimic that effective communication system. Trulicity helps the system:

  •  recognize a need for nourishment, and
  •  responds by releasing insulin to balance blood sugar levels after eating.

There is another benefit surrounding Trulicity. It helps patients with type-2 diabetes lose weight. Some patients using Trulicity see up to 6% body weight as a silver lining; it’s an unexpected perk that helps patients feel and look better. They’ve worked hard over the many weeks that turn to months pursuing a regimen of proper exercise, improved eating habits, and drinking plenty of water—with results—and they’re happy. 

How did the Trulicity shortage occur?

In contrast to using the medication solely to manage type 2 diabetes, people started acquiring Trulicity prescriptions for the sole purpose of losing weight. 

Historically, drug shortages do occur. Sometimes there is a raw material or there are quality issues. In 2019, a Drug Shortage Task Force composed of various FDA groups published Drug Shortages: Root Causes and Potential Solutions, an examination of the underlying factors often responsible for drug shortages. Though drug shortages are historically common, COVID-19 had not yet appeared to add a worldwide supply chain disruption. Yet, by late 2021–and throughout 2022–the problem of shortages increased dramatically, especially for some type 2 diabetes medication brands. Why?

These were the same medications that effectively help with weight loss. Initially, stars and influencers shared their transformative Ozempic weight losses. Then demand increased—exponentially!  First Ozempic, next people who couldn’t find Ozempic moved to Wegovy, then on to a generic called Rybelsus. Sales soared over the past year or more, according to the company that makes the drugs, Novo Nordisk. 

Despite the designated use for Trulicity and these other medications to help manage conditions for those with type 2 diabetes, people were getting their weight-loss prescriptions through telemed sites. The more successful a weight loss medication, the more popular the drug became—until it was gone. Folks would then turn to other brands of semaglutide. Finally, when looking for similar—though not quite the best results—dieters turned to another GLP-receptor agonist, dulaglutide. Trulicity’s popularity had arrived. 

How could it occur, though, that medications meant to treat type 2 diabetes were (are) being prescribed “off-label” for the sole purpose of helping people lose weight. To address such problems, one of the FDA task force’s recommendations might have recently acquired a sense of urgency, or at least, a heightened sense of importance: 

“Creating a shared understanding of the impact of drug shortages on patients…” who need them. While the Trulicity shortage has improved some since 2022, would prescribers for off-label use find changes on the horizon? Possibly, but it appears not.

The Trulicity shortage is a worldwide problem. Harvard Business Review calls it global over-reliance on China and India. Eli Lilly posted a notice on their Australian website stating the Trulicity shortage was expected to continue through the end of March, 2023. Other manufacturer’s expected mid-March availability. As of this writing, there doesn’t appear to be an advertised shortage in the US, based on a review of both Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly’s websites. That’s great news for those living with Type 2 diabetes who count on medication like Trulicity.

But how are those with type 2 diabetes getting by? Once established with a prescribed medication like Trulicity, changing to another medication because of shortages might be really difficult. Prescribers use their patients’ information, patients needs/preferences to assess and then prescribe the option. Patients, in turn, ease into their new routines. Patients overcome frustrations, for example, discomfort with intestinal issues. Over time, patients gain confidence, even an optimistic sign toward healthy progress. What do these patients who rely on life/saving drugs do upon learning their medication can’t be found? 

How healthcare providers deal with medication shortages 

Patients should hope they’ve got a savvy healthcare provider. According to the professional organization American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), both pharmaceutical and healthcare providers should access helpful resources regarding drug shortages. Professionals can learn past trends; can determine types of shortages like injectable vs noninjectable drugs; can learn shortages by class (hormones, antimicrobials, fluids, etc), and other categories.

But healthcare providers can know more. Savvy professionals should know recommended best practices and alternative strategies to adopt when faced with shortages. Knowing shortage recommendations, looking for resilience, and assuring redundancy of drugs—some ways the American Medical Association (AMA) is involved, assists all those who work to satisfy our healthcare needs. While not a cure, these efforts help move patients to the improved side of drug shortages. 

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.