The BC government said the number of Ozempic prescriptions dispensed to Americans plummeted by at least 99% after the province enacted new regulations and a doctor behind an “unusually high percentage” of prescriptions was temporarily suspended.
From January 1 to April 19 of this year, 30,700 Ozempic prescriptions were dispensed to US residents from BC pharmacies. Between April 20 and May 31, that same number dropped to 111, a 99.6 percent reduction, according to a press release from the BC Ministry of Health.
The ministry told Global News in January it was monitoring BC’s supply of Ozempic, a type 2 diabetes drug that has made headlines for its off-label use as an obesity treatment, due to “recent trends of social media and shortages in the United States.”
It appears that those shortages in the United States were prompting Americans to seek out the drug in Canada, leading to fears that Canada too would face an Ozempic shortage as a result. During the first two months of 2023, BC found that up to 15% of prescriptions for the drug in the province were being sent south of the border.
On April 19, the province announced a new regulation that prevents non-residents from buying Ozempic online and through mail order. This doesn’t affect Canadians’ access to the drug, but it does mean that if an American wants to get an Ozempic prescription filled in BC, he must buy it himself.
The regulation came after the province found that just two BC online pharmacies filled 88 percent of all prescriptions for U.S. residents and 95 percent of those prescriptions were written by just one Nova Scotia physician. .
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On April 6, the Nova Scotias College of Physicians and Surgeons announced it had temporarily suspended the doctor in question, who had written at least 17,000 prescriptions for Ozempic within three months.
That doctor was identified as Dr. David Davison, a Nova Scotian licensed physician based in Odessa, Texas who graduated from Dalhousie University in 1977.
Davison maintained a Nova Scotia license to practice medicine as a nonresident, although he hasn’t practiced in the province “for many years,” said Dr. Gus Grant, registrar and CEO of the Nova Scotias College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Grant said the college suspended his medical license on an interim basis and launched a full investigation, calling it a serious matter.
Based on volume alone, the prescription is not in line with the standards of the profession, Grant said in a statement. I fail to see how the volume of prescribed medications can be supported by proper medical evaluation and judgment. At first glance, the prescription appears incompetent.
Grant said it is incumbent on licensed physicians in Nova Scotia to uphold proper prescribing practices, whether care is provided in-person or via virtual medicine.
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As for the two BC-based online pharmacies that have dispensed thousands of Ozempic prescriptions to Americans, BC announced that the College of Pharmacists is engaged in an ongoing investigation.
The province notes that BC pharmacies can fill prescriptions written by U.S. doctors if they are co-signed by a Canadian doctor.
Ozempic is a brand name diabetes drug manufactured by Novo Nordisk, but the medical ingredient in it is called semaglutide. Semaglutide works by mimicking a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which stimulates insulin release and helps reduce blood sugar spikes.
Semaglutide is also effective in regulating diet by targeting areas of the brain that make a person feel fuller and, as such, is used as a weight loss treatment.
Novo Nordisk actually makes two drugs where semaglutide is the only medical ingredient: Ozempic for type 2 diabetes and Wegovy for obesity. Both drugs have been approved for use in Canada by Ozempic since 2018 and Wegovy since 2021.
No Wegovy prescriptions have ever been filled in Canada, however, due to ongoing global shortages. Novo Nordisk said it had to postpone the release of the drugs in Canada due to unprecedented demand.
Both Wegovy and Ozempic are given via weekly injections. The only apparent difference between the two drugs is that Wegovy can be injected at a slightly higher dosage, according to Novo Nordisk medical boards.
With Canadian Press files
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