Diabetes Medication Byetta Shortage Officially Over
Whenever I wrote about my success with Byetta lately, I felt guilty. Byetta has made it possible for me to lose a lot of weight and to control my blood glucose.
But for the past two months the companies that distribute this new medication have “asked physicians to temporarily suspend the start of new patients on Byetta until supply and inventory levels are restored”. So I felt that I was almost mean when I talked up the benefits of Byetta at a time when people are having a hard time to get started on it.
Now, I feel good again. Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Lilly, the companies that distribute Byetta, just gave doctors the go-ahead to begin writing new prescriptions.
About 70 percent of retail pharmacies probably have it in stock now, says Jamaison Schuler, the spokesperson for Lilly and its partnership with Amylin. He says that other pharmacies can probably get it in a day or two.
Even during the past couple of months some doctors continued to prescribe Byetta to new patients. But after the companies asked doctors not to prescribe it to new patients, “new prescriptions flattened,” Jamaison told me. The significant climb in the number of new prescriptions stopped, and the flattening was enough so that those of us already on Byetta would still be able to get it.
For the past couple of months I made sure to submit my prescription several days before I had to have it. But I never had any trouble getting Byetta during this supply shortage.
It was not Byetta itself that was in short supply. It wasn’t even the pen that the Byetta comes in. Lilly assembles and manufactures the pens, Jamaison says. It was the cartridge inside of the pen.
A British company called Wockhart UK wasn’t able to keep up with the demand. So a few weeks ago an American company, Baxter Pharmaceuticals, began producing enough of the cartridges that the great demand for Byetta requires.
Since April 2005 doctors have written more than 1 million prescriptions for Byetta, Jamaison says. The problem was that it took off about as fast as any diabetes drug in history. For example, “From November to January, monthly prescriptions rose almost 40 percent,” Alex Berenson wrote in the March 2 issue of The New York Times.
Now, not only can doctors can start writing new prescriptions but they are also getting the free sample kits that they haven’t had since May. Free vouchers for the first month of Byetta are also becoming available again.
The easing of this shortage is good news in more ways than one. It is especially good news for people who want to start taking Byetta. Those of us already using it don’t need to plan ahead to get it. Investors in Amylin stock, like me, saw its price shoot up $4 a share on August 14, when Jamaison announced the good news. And nobody needs to feel guilty about recommending Byetta any more.