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American access to B.C. stocks of diabetes drug Ozempic slashed

Ozempic was being sent to American customers mostly from two online B.C. pharmacies using prescriptions issued by a doctor in Nova Scotia.
Diabetes drug Ozempic is shown at a pharmacy in Toronto on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joe O’Connal

A new rule to limit American access to a diabetes drug also used for weight loss has worked, says the B.C. government.

According to the Ministry of Health, there were 30,700 dispenses of Ozempic to American customers between Jan. 1 and April 19, mostly from two online B.C. pharmacies using prescriptions issued by a doctor in Nova Scotia. The demand was considered to be driven by recent social media excitement around the drug, which is used to treat Type 2 diabetes but also curbs appetite and so can be used to lose weight.

After the College of Pharmacists of B.C. raised concerns with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia, the doctor was temporarily suspended. An investigation into the two online B.C. pharmacies is still continuing.

The ministry statement said that on April 19 a regulation was put in place that prevents anyone who is not a B.C. resident, Canadian citizen or permanent resident from accessing the drug unless they fill their prescription in person. The rule also included two other similar drugs, Wegovy and Rybelsus.

“The new regulation was introduced in response to a high percentage of the dispenses of Ozempic being purchased by U.S. patients from pharmacies located in British Columbia, in an environment where surging demand in some jurisdictions created shortages,” the statement read.

From April 20 to May 3 in B.C., the number of Ozempic prescriptions filled for Americans fell to 111 — a drop of 99.1 per cent.