Ozempic patient starter kit.
Source – NovoMedlink
The B.C. government is taking steps to ensure diabetes patients in the province continue to have access to the drug Ozempic.
B.C.’s Health Minister Adrian Dix detailed the results of an internal investigation earlier this week on the cross-border sale of Ozempic, a medication used to treat Type-2 diabetes.
Apparently, thousands of Americans are getting their Ozempic this year from pharmacies in British Columbia, causing local pharmacies to become concerned over the possibility of a local shortage of the diabetes medication, according to CBC Canada News.
The health minister reported the investigation showed that nearly one in every five prescriptions in B.C. went to American residents in the first two months of the year – with the vast majority of those prescriptions being issued in Nova Scotia and fulfilled by two Metro Vancouver pharmacies.
The government said in January and February, 15 percent or 15,798 of Ozempic dispenses in B.C. were sold to U.S. residents.
U.S. residents made up 19 percent or 12,816 of all patients who were dispensed the drug by a pharmacy in the province. The average for other medicines sold to Americans is 0.4 percent,” according to the investigation, reports Global News.
“The purpose of procuring the drug Ozempic for British Columbia is not to turn around and export it to Americans. It is to make sure patients in British Columbia and Canada requiring the drug to treat their Type 2 diabetes can continue to access it,” Dix said.
“For this reason, we are taking action to ensure Type 2 diabetes patients maintain access to Ozempic.”
But perhaps even more concerning is the finding that out of 13,197 of the 15,798 Ozempic prescriptions dispensed to U.S. residents, fully 95 percent were written by one or more prescribers who identified themselves as a practitioner from Nova Scotia, the province said.
“The number of prescriptions emanating from one or more practitioners in Nova Scotia is concerning,” Dix said. “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.”
Why is there so much demand for Ozempic?
Bernie Garrett, a professor in the school of nursing at the University of British Columbia (UBC), explains Ozempic is also effective for weight loss — albeit with significant risks attached, including thyroid cancer as a possible side-effect.
Weight loss while taking the injectable diabetes medication has proven to be a wonderful side-effect to most type-2 diabetics who are quite often, also overweight.
Demand for injections that help with weight loss, known as GLP-1 agonists, has surged in the past year, turning Ozempic into a household name. Its use in Hollywood has been mocked on “Saturday Night Live” and served as a punch line at the Oscars.
Celebrities and influencers have touted the shots; while ads for startups prescribing the drugs have flooded social media.
However, healthcare insurance issues in the U.S. make it nearly impossible to procure Ozempic and another injectable medication called Mounjaro, which is waiting for FDA approval.
The biggest reason that Americans are looking to get these medications in Canada and Mexico centers around the cost. One injectable pen of Ozempic (only one injection a month is required) runs close to $1,000.
In Canada and Mexico, that $1,000 a patient pays for one injection pen in the U.S. can buy three or even four of the same thing across the border. Currently, pharmacies in B.C. can fill prescriptions for patients written by U.S. doctors if they are co-signed by a Canadian practitioner, according to the province.
Most insurance plans do not cover weight drugs and won’t approve Ozempic unless there is a diabetes diagnosis. And of course, Medicare does not approve weight loss drugs. Medicaid programs cover them in fewer than 20 states.
Dr. Angela Fitch, the president of the Obesity Medicine Association, said that because obesity is a disease, treatments should be covered just like they are for diabetes or cancer. Fitch is also the chief medical officer of the startup Knownwell, which offers primary-care and metabolic-health services.
“It should be something that everybody has access to, not just the lucky few who have an employer that decides to add it to coverage,” she said.