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UPDATE 1-Belgium plans temporary ban on use of Ozempic for weight loss

(Updates with details on British ban in paragraph 6)

By Marine Strauss

BRUSSELS, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Belgium wants to temporarily ban the use of Novo Nordisk's diabetes drug Ozempic as a weight loss treatment amid a shortage of the medicine, the Belgian health minister said on Monday.

"We have told doctors that they must reserve this drug for their patients who have type 2 diabetes but we see that this strategy does not work," Belgian federal health minister Franck Vandenbroucke told Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

"I know that this drug can also be useful for people who suffer from morbid obesity so we obviously need to discuss it. But I am convinced that we need a strong and legal signal because simple recommendations are not enough," he said.

Vandenbroucke said a ban would be temporary and last a few weeks or a few months, as is necessary depending on production and availability of the drug.

A meeting of the working group on the availability of medicines, which includes representatives of pharmacists, insurers, distributors, the pharmaceutical industry and the government, will take place tomorrow to decide on the ban.

In the UK, doctors and prescribers, including private online pharmacies, were ordered to stop prescribing Ozempic to people who don't have type 2 diabetes as soon as possible. They are also banned from starting new patients with type 2 diabetes on the medicine for as long as the shortage lasts.

Last month, the Belgian federal agency recommended doctors and pharmacists only prescribe Ozempic to diabetic patients due to the acute increase in demand.

The drug's limited availability will last until early 2024, according to the agency.

(Reporting by Marine Strauss; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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