Ozempic: who can have it?
Ozempic was originally a drug intended to treat people with type 2 diabetes. But since its introduction, several doctors have also prescribed it for weight loss, use that has not been validated by Health Canada.
“Ozempic has not been approved for weight loss in Canada. The manufacturer of the drug [Novo Nordisk] has not filed an application in support of this indication”, indicates the federal institution. Since the company that produces Ozempic did not apply for the drug to be prescribed for weight loss, they did not have to provide evidence or clinical studies showing its effectiveness and limitations for this use. .
But it is not illegal for a doctor to prescribe it for weight loss.
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“It is up to the doctor to carry out the necessary research by consulting the medical literature, exercise guides and guidelines published by learned societies. It’s up to the doctor to make the most appropriate decision and to use his clinical judgment based on each case,” explains Leslie Labranche, Senior Media Relations Advisor at the Collège des médecins du Québec.
This means that doctors who prescribe it for off-label use do not have official guidelines for dosage and monitoring.
According to endocrinologist Richard Dumas, in order to properly prescribe Ozempic – a semaglutide drug – for weight loss, healthcare professionals currently rely primarily on recommendations issued for Wegovy. , another semaglutide treatment created by the same pharmaceutical company that produces Ozempic, approved by Health Canada for weight loss, but unavailable in the province due to lack of stock. Wegovy is said to be too popular in the United States, preventing mass marketing of the drug here.
According to doctors Metro spoke to, to get a prescription of Ozempic for weight loss, one must:
– Have a BMI of more than 30 or have a BMI between 27 and 30 and have a health problem (e.g. prediabetes);
– Have proven that you have tried to lose weight, without success.
Prescribed but not reimbursed  ;
If a doctor can therefore prescribe Ozempic for weight loss, the rules for reimbursement are clear: you will not be able to request reimbursement from the RAMQ for any pathology other than diabetes.  ;
In addition, “obesity is not part of [the health problems covered by the] public drug insurance plan, underlines Françoise Thomas, assistant to the general secretariat and communications of the National Institute of Excellence in Health. and Social Services (INESSS), which develops drug reimbursement criteria. “This drug therefore cannot be reimbursed for this medical condition.”
Ozempic prescriptions covered by the RAMQ have still jumped in three years, from 74 in 2019 to 34,373 in November 2022. The increase would simply be explained by the effectiveness of the medicine to control type 2 diabetes, underlines Caroline Dupont, RAMQ media spokesperson.
“Ozempic was added to public coverage in November 2019. So for sure when a new drug comes up on the list for a fairly common condition like diabetes, you can see that there is an increase in consumption,” she says.