April 23, 2024

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Breakthrough Method Could Solve Global Ozempic Drug Shortage

Breakthrough Method Could Solve Global Ozempic Drug Shortage

Breakthrough Method Could Solve Global Ozempic Drug Shortage

Global Ozempic Drug Shortage Solution: Cheaper, Faster Method Could Produce 10 Times More Products

The production of the groundbreaking and highly popular diabetes and weight-loss drug semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy) is a complex and slow process. With the ongoing global drug shortage, researchers have developed a cheaper, faster method that could produce ten times more therapeutically equivalent drugs.

The effectiveness of semaglutide, sold as Ozempic for diabetes and Wegovy for weight loss, has made it highly sought after, leading to a global shortage throughout 2022-2023, with manufacturers Novo Nordisk stating that the shortage could continue into this year. The shortage has been particularly severe for type 2 diabetes patients who rely on semaglutide to control their blood sugar levels, forcing them to seek alternative options.

Breakthrough Method Could Solve Global Ozempic Drug Shortage

Researchers at the Florey Institute in Melbourne, Australia, may have found a solution to this serious shortage problem. They have developed a production method for a drug analogue that is similar in therapeutic effect to semaglutide but cheaper and faster to produce, offering the potential for significantly increased supply.

“Our method requires fewer chemical steps and yields higher quantities compared to the current semaglutide production process,” said Chaitra Chandrashekar, lead author of the study outlining the new drug production method. “While more research is needed, this appears to be a rapid, straightforward approach to synthesizing new drugs like semaglutide, while retaining their key therapeutic effects.”

Semaglutide is a member of the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) series of drugs, which mimic a natural hormone to lower blood sugar and promote weight loss. However, its chemical structure has hindered its production, with one component being poorly soluble in water, making it difficult to process, purify, and produce semaglutide on a large scale. This explains why suppliers of the drug have been unable to meet the growing demand.

“Our goal was to develop an improved, cost-effective synthetic route for manufacturing a potential new drug targeting the GLP-1 receptor,” said Akhter Hossain, corresponding author of the study. Semaglutide’s structure contains a very ‘hydrophobic’ component, meaning it does not easily dissolve in water.

Semaglutide is manufactured by first engineering yeast cells to produce peptides, which are the amino acid chains that make up the drug’s “skeleton.” These peptides are then modified by adding a fatty acid chain to extend the drug’s half-life in the bloodstream, a process called lipidation. However, it is the added fatty acid that poses the troublesome hydrophobic component.

Instead of using lipidation, the Florey researchers employed a process called glycosylation, attaching carbohydrate-based molecules (polysaccharides) to the surface of the peptide. This resulted in a new hydrophilic GLP-1 analogue with a much higher yield.

“We achieved a tenfold higher yield with glycosylation compared to semaglutide,” Hossain said.

In chemistry, an analogue is a compound that is structurally similar to another compound but with slightly different components. Importantly, the therapeutic effects produced by the GLP-1 analogue are the same as semaglutide.

“Our short-term experiments in animal models suggest that our potential drug performs similarly to semaglutide. It significantly lowers blood sugar levels and promotes glucose excretion. While more research is needed, this appears to be a rapid, easy way to synthesize new drugs like semaglutide, while preserving their main therapeutic effects,” Chandrashekar said.

The study was published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Breakthrough Method Could Solve Global Ozempic Drug Shortage

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