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Province takes action to protect supply of diabetes drug in B.C.

April 19, 2023 at 11:24 am  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

The Province is enacting a new regulation effective immediately to ensure that diabetes patients in B.C. do not experience a shortage of the diabetes drug semaglutide, known widely as Ozempic.

Semaglutide is in a class of medications called incretin mimetics that help the pancreas release the right amount of insulin when blood sugar levels are high. Drugs with the active ingredient semaglutide treat Type 2 diabetes mellitus under the brand name Ozempic, an injectable, and Rybelsus, a tablet, as well as treat obesity under the brand name Wegovy.

“The immediate action we are taking today will ensure patients in British Columbia and Canada requiring Ozempic to treat their Type 2 diabetes can continue to access it,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Through this new regulation, we will protect the supply of drugs in B.C. – not only for Ozempic, but for other drugs that may require it in the future.”

A new drug schedules (limits on sale) regulation has been enacted to impose conditions on the sale of semaglutide by pharmacies.

Through the new regulation, British Columbians, other Canadian citizens and permanent residents can buy Ozempic through B.C. pharmacies both in person and online. Others can only purchase the drug in person at a pharmacy. The regulation will help prevent online or mail-order sales of Ozempic to people who do not reside in Canada and who are not in B.C. to make the purchase.

Currently, the regulation includes semaglutide drugs, including Ozempic, Rybelsus and Wegovy, but other drugs can be added as needed to protect patients and ensure they continue to have regular access to and supply of the drug they need.

The BC College of Pharmacists will be responsible for ensuring its registrants comply with the new regulation.

“British Columbians’ access to a stable supply of therapeutic medications will ensure that patients are not at risk,” said Suzanne Solven, CEO and registrar, College of Pharmacists of British Columbia. “The college will work with the provincial government to ensure that all new regulatory requirements are met and practice standards continue to be followed by every pharmacist in B.C.”

Regulatory action will protect the supply of Ozempic in B.C. and Canada in direct response to information learned from a B.C. PharmaNet data review indicating that an unusually high percentage of prescriptions for Ozempic were coming from one practitioner in Nova Scotia and that these prescriptions were being dispensed by two internet pharmacies in British Columbia to American residents. Increasingly, United States customers are turning to Canadian online pharmacies to purchase drugs at prices lower than at home.

“I have directed BC PharmaCare to continue to monitor and review the data regarding the number of dispenses of semaglutide drug prescriptions as a measure of the impact of this new regulation,” Dix said.

BC PharmaCare provides coverage for Ozempic as a second-line therapy for Type 2 diabetes to help patients manage blood-sugar levels when metformin is not effective. The cost is not reimbursed for weight loss. Currently, pharmacies in B.C. can fill prescriptions for patients written by U.S. doctors if they are co-signed by a Canadian practitioner.

Quick Facts:

  • One of the side-effects of Ozempic is weight loss and it has gained popularity through social media as a weight-loss medication.
  • Demand has driven shortages of the drug for diabetic people in various jurisdictions, such as the United States, but there is no shortage in B.C.
  • Data indicates that two B.C. pharmacies filled 13,197 of the 15,798 prescriptions to U.S. residents, which represents 88% of all prescriptions filled for U.S. residents in January and February 2023.
  • Approximately 95% of these prescriptions were written by one or more prescribers who identified themselves as a practitioner from Nova Scotia.

Learn More:

Learn about BC PharmaCare:

Learn about Ozempic coverage in B.C.: and

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