A Nanaimo man is struggling to get and pay for his life-saving Ozempic medication as an ongoing shortage sparks PharmaCare coverage issues.
Wayne Borman, 76, has lived with Type 2 diabetes for almost 30 years, taking just insulin for most of that time.
About two years ago, he was hospitalized due to a complication with his condition.
He said that’s when his doctor prescribed him Ozempic to help bring down his blood sugar levels, which has been working.
“With Ozempic and monitoring my diet and everything, I’m able to keep a normal blood sugar level,” Borman explained. “So I can get active again and do the things that I like to do.”
He said the problem is, Ozempic is hard to get. The drug has exploded on social media for its weight loss side effect.
Borman said his prescription is for one 4 mg pen per month, taking 1 mg every week.
He typically picks up a three-month supply at the pharmacy, but last time, he was shorted two pens because of the ongoing shortage and was told to come back the next week.
When he returned, he was again told to come back in a week.
“Then the following week, I went back again to the pharmacy, and they said we just got a letter from the manufacturer saying they don’t know when it’s coming in,” Borman said.
He was told he could get Ozempic pens with a smaller dose, but it would come at a cost.
PharmaCare isn’t covering the full cost of the smaller 2 mg dosage pens, which will cost Borman $125-$145 per week for the medication.
“I’m a pensioner, I live on less than $2,000 a month, so that’s a lot of money out of my pocket,” he added. “I can’t live without it.”
Chris Stokes, pharmacist at Cridge Family Pharmacy, said this is because of the manufacturer’s drug pricing.
According to Stokes, the 4 mg and 2 mg pens are the exact same price.
“The pen that provides 4 mg total is in a shortage, so the only pens that people can use right now are the ones that provide 2 mg total,” Stokes explained. “But because that will only last half the amount, PharmaCare is deciding to only cover half of it.”
He said he understands why PharmaCare is doing this because it ends up being double the price for full dosage, but “it’s unfortunate for the patients who would normally have it 100 per cent covered.”
Borman believes PharmaCare should still cover the whole cost for people who need Ozempic to survive because it is a necessity.
Stokes told CHEK News Monday that he called PharmaCare before his interview, who told him some mitigation plans are in the works.
He said PharmaCare will temporarily release Trulicity, a drug similar to Ozempic, during the shortage.
It is unclear if this will be on a temporary or long-term basis.
“The only issue with that is the patient would have to go to the doctor and get them to switch [their prescription] to Trulicity,” Stokes said.
He added that PharmaCare also told him there should be more Ozempic coming to B.C. by the end of October.
“But that’s still about a month and a half to two months where patients who need it will not be getting their full coverage,” he said.
More information on Ozempic deliveries and Trulicity could be coming this week.