BC set to clamp down on Americans getting Ozempic from Canada

Mar 28 2023, 5:22 pm

Diabetes drug Ozempic is so popular in the US that residents are buying up BC supplies in record numbers, and now the province plans to step in.

According to an announcement from the provincial government on Tuesday, March 28, steps are being taken to ensure that diabetes patients in BC don’t experience an Ozempic shortage amid surging demand.

Ozempic is a brand of injectable prescription drug containing the active ingredient semaglutide that is designed to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus. BC PharmaCare provides limited coverage for Ozempic as a second-line therapy for type 2 diabetes to help patients manage blood sugar levels when metformin, another diabetes drug, is not effective.

But the drug isn’t being used exclusively by diabetes patients. People are using the drug as a shortcut to weight loss. While the product is not approved for weight loss, it is a side-effect of the medication, which has been heavily popularized on social media in recent months.

Rumours have circulated about its reported use to help celebrities lose weight, with Vanity Fair referring to the drug as “Hollywood’s Latest ‘Miracle’ Diet.”

The demand for drugs like Ozempic is extremely high, due in part to non-diabetic users swayed by the rumoured Hollywood A-listers using it and its popularity on TikTok, which has led to shortages. Here in Canada, as of March 18, 2023, there’s a national shortage of the one-milligram format of Ozempic.

But, BC has never had a shortage of the drug, and the province doesn’t plan to start now.

“BC’s PharmaNet data indicates that an unusually high percentage of the dispenses of Ozempic are being purchased by US patients from pharmacies located in BC,” said the provincial government.

“The purpose of procuring the drug Ozempic for BC is not to turn around and export it to Americans,” said Minister of Health Adrian Dix. “It is to make sure patients in BC and Canada requiring the drug to treat their Type 2 diabetes can continue to access it.”

According to the province, 15% (15,798) of Ozempic dispenses in BC were sold to US residents in January and February 2023.

That means that US residents made up 19% (12,816) of all patients who were dispensed the drug by a pharmacy here in BC. “The average of other drugs sold to Americans is 0.4%,” said the province.

Two BC pharmacies were responsible for 13,197 of the 15,798 dispenses to US residents, according to the province. Of those prescriptions, 95% “were written by one or more prescribers who identified themselves as a practitioner from Nova Scotia.”

“The number of prescriptions emanating from one or more practitioners in Nova Scotia is concerning. As a direct result of the review of PharmaNet data, I am writing to all provincial and territorial health ministers in Canada, as well as the Minister of Health for Canada, Jean-Yves Duclos, to review and take appropriate actions,” Dix said.

Now, the province is going to amend regulations to limit the sale or dispensing of Ozempic to non-Canadian residents “in situations where there are potential supply issues,” to protect supply for BC residents. The province said its “working closely with the drug manufacturer” to secure enough supply.

US customers are turning to Canadian pharmacies to get drugs online for less than what they pay in their own country. In BC, pharmacies can fill prescriptions for patients written by US doctors as long as they are co-signed by a Canadian practitioner.

With files from Daily Hive Staff

Sarah AndersonSarah Anderson

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