A shortage of diabetes drug Ozempic that is used off-label for weight loss is expected in Canada, manufacturer Novo Nordisk and Health Canada said on Friday.
“We are experiencing a temporary supply disruption with the Ozempic 1 mg (injection) pen due to the combination of overall global supply constraints coupled with increased demand,” said Novo Nordisk spokesperson Kate Hanna in an emailed statement.
On its website, Health Canada said “intermittent shortages” are expected from late August to early October.
The 0.25 mg and 0.5 mg doses of Ozempic injection pens remain available “for patients with Type 2 diabetes across Canada,” Hanna said.
“Canada is one of many countries experiencing supply challenges. We have been proactively working with our global colleagues, Health Canada, and medication shipment partners to address this issue to mitigate impact across Canada,” she said.
The lower-dose pens “may be an option for some patients to mitigate the impacts” of the supply disruption, Health Canada’s web page said.
But “it will be important to avoid further shortages,” it said.
Health Canada and Novo Nordisk are “closely monitoring” the supply of Rybelsus, which is the pill form of semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic, the web page said.
“Patients are encouraged to consult with a health care practitioner on available options,” Health Canada said.
Ozempic and Rybelsus are currently approved by Health Canada for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.
Endocrinologists have previously told The Canadian Press that semaglutide, prescribed at higher doses, is also an effective treatment for obesity and that they have prescribed it off-label for that purpose.
But some doctors and ethics experts have criticized Novo Nordisk for aggressively marketing both Ozempic and Rybelsus in Canada in recent months, citing concerns that people will seek prescriptions for cosmetic weight loss.
Another semaglutide drug manufactured by Novo Nordisk, Wegovy, has been approved by Health Canada for the treatment of obesity, but it is not yet available in this country.
Nicole Ireland, The Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2023.
Canadian Press health coverage receives support through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. CP is solely responsible for this content.