"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Dispute over slimming products continues, risk of shortages increases

April 17, 2023 – Americans are flocking to Canada to get their hands on the expensive and really trendy weight-loss drug Ozempic. But Canadians say they shouldn't move so quickly.

British Columbia, a province in Canada, prohibits Americans from purchasing the drug, which was developed to treat type 2 diabetes, “to to ensure that diabetes patients in British Columbia are not experiencing a shortage of the diabetes medication semaglutide (Ozempic), although increasing demand is leading to shortages in some jurisdictions.”

In the United States, the drug can cost as much as $1,000 monthly. In Canada, Ozempic can now cost about $300 monthly.

The British Columbia Ministry of Health released a report Thousands of U.S. residents have filled their Ozempic prescriptions on this region. Of the Ozempic doses disbursed in British Columbia, 15% (15,798 doses) were sold to Americans in January and February of this 12 months.

Don't be surprised if other Canadian provinces follow suit, said Walter Oronsaye, PharmD, a Houston-based pharmacist who creates online content with details about pharmaceuticals, including drug shortages.

“If Ozempic is not used for diabetes purposes, in most cases it will not be covered by insurance,” he said. “That $1,000 a month is something a lot of people cannot afford. So I think it's very likely that it will be banned in other parts of Canada as well.”

In fact, Canada's health minister said late last week that he was working with other provinces to forestall the mass export of the drug to U.S. patients. Canadian media reported.

Mark Decerbo, PharmD, a Las Vegas pharmacist, said doctors often prescribe “off-label” drugs. He also said British Columbia’s change of power can also be the most effective move.

“Undoubtedly, the popularity of this drug, both for its effectiveness and its social media presence, has contributed to shortages, as have the pervasive disruptions to the global supply chain of the raw materials needed to produce the drug,” he said. “In general, I fully support the ban on Americans purchasing Ozempic in British Columbia, as every country should always put the health and well-being of its own citizens above that of others.”

Go viral

One of essentially the most controversial points within the Ozempic controversy is that folks who would not have diabetes take Ozempic solely for weight reduction, leaving some individuals with type 2 diabetes without vital medications.

Social media platforms and celebrity endorsements have dramatically increased the recognition and sales of the load loss drug Ozempic – contributing to the shortages.

“There are Facebook groups that offer ways for people to get Ozempic at cheaper prices,” Oronsaye said. “I'm sure there's a group that found out that you can buy Ozempic in Canada.”

People without diabetes who take Ozempic say the controversy is overblown. Annie Brown, 33, doesn't have diabetes and takes the drug to shed kilos. After being obese her whole life, she loves that Ozempic makes you are feeling full “even when you're not.”

Brown called Ozempic a “miracle drug.” She lost 14 kilos in 6 weeks of taking the Novo Nordisk drug. But she faced backlash online, with some saying she would gain weight if she stopped taking it. “You're stealing from diabetics” and “You should be ashamed of yourself” are other comments she received.

Carol Sortore, who has prediabetes but doesn't have type 2 diabetes, takes Ozempic to drop pounds after her doctor prescribed the drug, which can be covered by her insurance. She says she understands the frustration of diabetics after they can't get Ozempic due to shortages, but additionally says they've “a wealth of insulin options available to them,” which isn't at all times the case for obese people.

“If a person and their doctor have decided that this is a course of action that makes sense for someone without diabetes, then I don't think they should feel guilty,” Sortore said.