It just got harder for Americans to get Ozempic in Canada

ozempic pen
Semaglutide is a weekly injection that mimics a hunger-regulating hormone in the body.Insider
  • A Canadian province is cracking down on Americans filling Ozempic prescriptions across the border.

  • British Columbia will be limiting sales of Ozempic to non-Canadians, to avoid shortages.

  • Americans have saved hundreds of dollars by filling their Ozempic prescriptions in Canada.

Canada is cracking down on Americans who send their Ozempic prescriptions to Canada to save money.

On Tuesday, British Columbia Minister of Health Adrian Dix announced that his province will be more tightly restricting sales of the Type 2 diabetes drug to non-Canadians when supply of the drug is limited. Ozempic, a once a week hormone injection, is often used off-label for weight loss, with good results.

"The purpose of procuring the drug Ozempic for British Columbia is not to turn around and export it to Americans," Dix said in a release. "It is to make sure patients in British Columbia and Canada requiring the drug to treat their Type 2 diabetes can continue to access it."

BC health minister Dix speaking at podium
British Columbia Minister of Health Adrian Dix is cracking down on Americans traveling to his province to get Ozempic.Don MacKinnon / AFP

Ozempic is only approved as a second-line treatment for Canadians with Type 2 diabetes who do not respond to metformin, a much cheaper and older diabetes drug.

According to province-wide pharmacy data, 15% of Ozempic prescriptions in January and February were sold to US residents. Normally, only about 0.4% of prescriptions in British Columbia are filled by Americans.

Many drugs are cheaper in Canada than in the US, because the Canadian government negotiates drug prices for the national health care system. At the Canadian online pharmacy Ozempic is advertised for about $250 US per pen, whereas pharmacies in the US routinely charge upwards of $1,000 for patients without insurance.

Dix said most of the Ozempic prescriptions for Americans filled in BC were dispensed by a just a couple of pharmacies, with one doctor in Nova Scotia, a province on the opposite end of the country, co-signing the bulk of them. US patients then typically receive the prescriptions "by mail," Dix said.

Some of the most popular online pharmacies for Americans looking for cheaper Ozempic are in another Canadian province, Manitoba. It's not clear whether Manitoba is considering similar restrictions yet, but, Dix also said "I am writing to all provincial and territorial health ministers in Canada, as well as the Minister of Health for Canada, Jean-Yves Duclos, to review and take appropriate actions."

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