Health Canada has approved a new medication that can fight type 2 diabetes, amid a global shortage of Ozempic that tens of thousands of British Columbians are struggling to find.
Mounjaro, a once-weekly medication, was green-lit for use in Canada just days ago, according to a release from the company that makes the product, Eli Lilly Canada. The announcement comes amid a worldwide shortage of the popular Ozempic medication used to fight the disease.
“It’s a godsend,” said Dr. Tom Elliot, medical director for BC Diabetes.
Elliot says the new medication is being welcomed with open arms. He has already prescribed Mounjaro to four patients and says they’re pleased with the product.
“There’s some beautiful published studies comparing it in terms of efficacy versus Ozempic. It’s more potent, it’s better at lowering sugar, it’s better for weight loss. It’s got the same side effect profile,” said the doctor.
The Ozempic shortage began earlier this year after the manufacturer reported the product was being sold and used off-label for its weight loss side effects, leaving those who need the life-saving drug in short supply.
Mounjaro has started to make its way to B.C. pharmacies, but at the moment it is not covered under PharmaCare. However, Elliot says the drug is less expensive than its counterpart Ozempic.
“Each vial costs $77 a week, so $11 a day…and then there’s an off-label of dosing it which could reduce the cost to as low as $2 a day,” said Elliot.
B.C.’s Ministry of Health says it’s reviewing if Mounjaro will be covered under PharmaCare. Trulicity, another Ozempic alternative, was approved for temporary PharmaCare coverage in September to help alleviate the shortage, and patients can switch over.
“In order to switch prescriptions to Trulicity during the shortage, patients can visit their local pharmacist. Pharmacists in B.C. can adapt most prescriptions in the pharmacy (with some exceptions) and do not need to consult with the prescribe,” said the Ministry in a statement.
Sandi Wilson, a Parksville resident, has used Ozempic for the last nine months and says it’s the only drug that has shown to give her adverse side effects.
She says that while Mounjaro is a good sign, the government should be tackling the shortage at the source of the problem.
“It makes it more and more difficult for me to understand why they would release that to people who want to, say, lose 10 pounds before their wedding,” said Wilson. “I know a person who did that and their doctor prescribed them the Ozempic, because they wanted to lose 10 pounds before their wedding.”
Wilson also lives on a fixed income and has had to appeal to get better PharmaCare coverage on Ozempic, which she was approved for. However, alternatives like Mounjaro and Trulicity deserve better coverage so that it’s affordable to more patients, she says.
“I think they should definitely look at subsidizing more of the alternatives because some people may be able to take them,” said Wilson.