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BC to limit access to diabetes drug that has social media fame for weight loss

(UPDATE: March 28 @ 11:30 am) - British Columbia’s health minister says he’s pushing through a regulatory change to limit the sale of the diabetes drug Ozempic to non−Canadian residents as celebrities promote its weight loss side−effects.

Adrian Dix says the province is taking action after thousands of prescriptions for the much−hyped drug were found to be going to Americans, the vast majority filled at two pharmacies in Metro Vancouver and issued by one Nova Scotia doctor.

Patients in B.C. need access to the drug and Dix says the province’s supply shouldn’t be drained and exported to the United States as demand surges due to a massive ad campaign and celebrity−driven social media chatter.

The province is working with the drug’s supplier to ensure there’s enough Ozempic for diabetes patients in B.C., and the health minister says he’s pushing for the federal government to address what he calls an "unacceptable situation."

Dix says he’s asking the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons to ensure pharmacies are complying with drug dispensing rules after data indicated upwards of 15 per cent of Ozempic prescriptions in the first two months of 2023 were filled for Americans.

He says other drugs see less than half a per cent going to non−Canadian residents, even as more and more Americans turn to Canadian pharmacies for access to cheaper prescription medications.

(Original story: March 28 @ 7:05 am) - British Columbia’s health minister plans to announce how the government will ensure patients in the province will have secure access to the diabetes and weight loss drug Ozempic.

Adrian Dix said in January that the government would be investigating why almost 10 per cent of prescriptions for the drug in B.C. were filled for American citizens.

<who>Photo Credit: Canadian Press</who>Health Minister Adrian Dix

Dix said at the time that the dramatic increase in demand for the diabetes drug was partly because of social media "influencers" who spoke about its weight loss benefits.

He said he asked PharmaCare, the publicly funded program that helps B.C. residents pay for some prescription drugs, to review the drug’s use by U.S. residents.

Dix announced in January that PharmaCare coverage of Ozempic would be widened to more patients with Type 2 diabetes, although it wouldn’t be part of regular benefit coverage.

Several celebrities in the United States have promoted the drug, even though it’s not approved for weight loss, setting off demand and sparking a shortage.

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