Canada’s Ozempic supply steady, for now, authorities say

Jun 19, 2024 | Canadian News

Canada’s supply of Ozempic, the drug developed to treat diabetics but widely used for weight loss, may have returned to normal after last year’s shortage, but at least one pharmacist warns another shortage may be looming.

“The country is well equipped with the drug now,” said Hannah Nerian, a Shopper’s Drug Mart pharmacist. But that may change “as earlier doctors prescribed one milligrams but now two milligrams mg of the drug is prescribed.”

Canada could also see a rise in diabetes because of the increase in population and patients’ financial instability, she said. As food prices increase, people might turn to cheaper, less healthful food which would have low nutritional value, she said.

She said suppliers of Ozempic will have to produce more of the drug as doctors increase the dosage and prescribe for their diabetic patients or the country could face another shortage.

Health Canada‘s website said the agency is monitoring the drug’s supply.

“Health Canada is working with manufacturers, distributors and stakeholders to monitor supply. We’re also looking at how these products can be made more available,” the agency said in a press release.

The medication can make a massive difference to people struggling to lose weight. Gurpreet Sandhu an Oakville resident said she has seen changes in her weight after taking Ozempic to treat her diabetes.

“I have seen major changes in my weight and my food cravings. I eat less and I guess it is because of the medicine I am taking,” Sandhu said.

Ian Patton, director of advocacy and public engagement at Obesity Canada, said Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy — same medication, different name for different uses — is approved in Canada for both diabetes and obesity treatment. Semaglutide is similar to GLP-1 hormone which helps regulate appetite and is associated with less hunger, food cravings and liking high‐fat foods.

Patton said usage of Ozempic is higher than before, but that does not mean more people are using it for obesity management, not for treating diabetes.

“I will say that the medication is far more accessible for individuals with diabetes. And in fact, there are many individuals in our community who were using the medication for obesity management but have since had their drug coverage change,” meaning they must pay out of pocket for this medication, Patton said.

People can have easy access to Ozempic through a doctor’s prescription, and the medicine is also available online, Nerian said.

But, she said, the government has put in place measures to combat too easy access to the drug, including changing Ozempic’s status to limited use. Patients need to fall under a certain category to access it.