BC is announcing actions to be taken and regulations to be set in place to make sure diabetes patients in the province have access to life-saving drugs since a shortage of the medication emerged early this year.
Semaglutide, also known as Ozempic, helps patients’ pancreases release the right amount of insulin when blood sugar levels are high. This is crucial for people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
The shortages of Ozempic came about in large part due to a physician based out of Nova Scotia, Dr. David Davison, who handed out over 15,000 prescriptions for the drug to US residents in January and February of this year.
More than 13,000 of these prescriptions were filled by BC pharmacies.
The practitioner responsible for these prescriptions has had his medical license revoked by the College of Physicians of Nova Scotia.
The reason why these tens of thousands of prescriptions were handed out in the first place is believed to be because one side-effect of Ozempic is weight loss. Due to viral posts on social media, people without diabetes have been using the drug to lose weight.
Celebrities like Julia Fox and Chelsea Handler have admitted to having taken the drug for weight loss purposes.
“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 BC — not only for Ozempic, but for other drugs that may require it in the future.”
The new regulations will limit sales of Ozempic and other drugs so they cannot be sold to people online who are not BC residents that are either Canadian citizens or permanent residents. People who do not fall within that criteria will have to go to a pharmacy in-person to get their prescription.
At the moment, the regulation includes Ozempic, Rybelsus and Wegovy, but other drugs can be added as needed to ensure patients have access to critical medication.
The BC College of Pharmacists will be responsible for ensuring the regulations are followed.
“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 BC.”
According to the province, there is currently no shortage of Ozempic within British Columbia.