The supply and use of Ozempic
Supply information updated: August 18, 2023
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Ozempic (semaglutide) is a prescription drug approved to treat adult patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. It's marketed in Canada by Novo Nordisk. The product monograph provides information to support the safe and effective use of the drug. Information on the product label and product monograph indicates the Health Canada approved indication (type 2 diabetes mellitus), dose, considerations when administering and side effects.
There have been reports, including in news and social media, that Ozempic is being used for weight loss. This is not an indication approved by Health Canada.
The decision to prescribe a drug for off-label use is part of the "practice of medicine". It involves the health care professional diagnosing a patient's symptoms and deciding which treatment would be most appropriate for that patient. The provincial and territorial Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons regulate the practice of medicine.
Supply of Ozempic
We recognise the importance of Ozempic for patients living with diabetes and addressing the shortage is a top priority.
Like many other countries, Health Canada has seen an increased demand for this drug. Health Canada has been working with Novo Nordisk and other stakeholders since 2022 to help ensure patients get the medicine they need.
In Canada, Novo Nordisk is expecting intermittent shortages of the Ozempic 1 mg pen from late August to early October 2023. This is due to a temporary delay in shipments and delivery, global supply constraints and increased demand for the product.
During this period, delivery to pharmacies in Canada may be delayed and as a result, patients may experience short term, intermittent delays receiving the 1 mg pens.
Novo Nordisk is advising stakeholders across the supply chain, including distributors, health care professionals and patient associations, of the upcoming intermittent shortages.
In the short term, Novo Nordisk is encouraging pharmacists to limit refill prescriptions to a 30-day supply. They are encouraging patients to contact their pharmacy well in advance of running out of their current supply. A more stable supply is expected in October 2023.
The pre-filled pen that delivers 0.25 mg or 0.5 mg doses of Ozempic is currently available for patients with type 2 diabetes across Canada. While they may be an option for some patients to mitigate the impacts of a supply disruption of the 1 mg strength, it will be important to avoid further shortages. Health Canada and Novo Nordisk are closely monitoring the supply of other formats as well as oral semaglutide (Rybelsus). Patients are encouraged to consult with a health care practitioner on available options.
Together with our partners, Health Canada is looking at ways to conserve existing supply, expedite resupplies to pharmacies and access foreign-authorized supply or alternatives, where possible.
We're doing our part to ensure that patients living with diabetes can access the medication they need and rely on.
If you have questions or concerns about access to this drug, please speak to a health care professional, such as your doctor or pharmacist.
Potential risk factors and side effects
The product monograph for Ozempic includes safety information on the use of this product.
Potential risk factors
Ozempic must not be used in patients who:
- have a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer
- have multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (also called MEN 2)
- this is a rare condition that causes tumors in the thyroid and parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, lips, mouth, eyes and digestive tract
- or, are allergic to Ozempic or any of the product's ingredients
It should also not be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Ozempic is not approved for use in individuals under 18 years of age.
Common side effects of Ozempic may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and constipation. A 2022 study found that most people taking semaglutide who did not have diabetes gained much of the weight back within a year of stopping the medication.
Ozempic may also lead to serious side effects, such as:
- changes in vision
- severely low blood sugar levels when used with diabetes treatments
- kidney problems, such as kidney failure
- gallbladder problems
- severe allergic reactions
- thyroid tumours, including cancer, in rare cases
For more information
If you have questions or concerns about this drug, speak to a health care professional, such as your doctor or pharmacist.
The practice of pharmacy and medicine are overseen by professional colleges in each province and territory.
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