Amid diabetes drug shortage, Health Canada advises against most new prescriptions of Ozempic

Health Canada is recommending that prescribers not start new patients on diabetes drugs such as Ozempic because of a worldwide shortage, except under certain conditions.

The federal department said Wednesday it is working with manufacturers to monitor supplies.

Global demand for Ozempic has skyrocketed, in part because of prescriptions related to weight loss.

“Efforts are being made to increase manufacturing capacity. But it will take time to build up supply levels to meet the demand,” Health Canada said in a notice.

Novo Nordisk Canada Inc., which markets Ozempic, is expecting a shortage in Canada of the 0.25-milligram, 0.5-milligram and one-milligram injection pens until early 2024.

Similarly, Eli Lilly Canada Inc., which markets Trulicity and Mounjaro, is also expecting lower supplies of both drugs throughout early 2024.

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WATCH | Diabetes patient scours pharmacies for Ozempic:

He uses Ozempic to treat his diabetes, but a global shortage is making it difficult to find

Carl Drodge is among those who rely on Ozempic as a treatment for diabetes, and has been calling nearly every pharmacy in Ottawa to see if they have any in supply. So far, he’s had no luck, and had to switch his medication to a close alternative.

After consulting with national pharmacy groups, family physicians and endocrinologists, Health Canada said it recommends that prescribers:  

  • Do not start new patients on these drugs that are in shortage, unless there are no suitable alternatives and there’s a clinical reason to do so.
  • Consider prescribing an alternative drug for patients taking one of these drugs that are in shortage, as a continuous supply can’t be guaranteed. 
  • Conserve the existing supply for patients who are stabilized and have no other treatment options.

Health Canada also consulted with patient groups such as Diabetes Canada and Obesity Canada.

Both drug firms are asking pharmacists to limit refill prescriptions to a 30-day supply.

Health Canada is also recommending that patients consult a pharmacist well before their current supply runs out.

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