Ozempic shortage: Ottawa man wants government to limit off-label prescriptions

An Ottawa man is trying to bring more awareness about the shortage of diabetes drugs that have become popular weight-loss tools to Parliament.

Canada is one of many countries experiencing a shortage of Ozempic, a drug approved by Health Canada for treating Type 2 diabetes. The active ingredient at higher doses has also proven to be an effective treatment for obesity, and Ozempic has become a popular weight-loss drug not just for obesity, but also for cosmetic purposes.

The surge in demand for the drug for off-label weight-loss use has led to shortages for people who need it to treat their diabetes, such as Ottawa’s Andrew Konecny, who has launched an e-petition calling on the federal government to step in.

“This is a tough issue that really requires some of our leaders to make some hard decisions,” he told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s CFRA Live with Andrew Pinsent on Sunday.

“I don’t want to pit one Canadian against another, but I suggest the use for cosmetic weight loss should be suspended in light of those within the diabetic population who have no alternative.”

The petition was launched on the House of Commons e-petition website last week and is accepting signatures until Jan. 21. It calls upon the federal government to “implement laws/regulations to limit the prescription of specific Diabetes medications … to Canadian resident patients diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes or specific types of obesity, as determined by Health Canada in collaboration with the Provinces and Territories of Canada.”

The petition names several drugs, including Novo Nordisk A/S’s Ozempic (semaglutide), Rybelsus, and Victoza; Eli Lilly & Co.’s Trulicity and Mounjaro (terzepatide); and AstraZeneca Plc’s Bydureon, among others.

Health Canada has not approved the use of Ozempic for weight loss, but says it is not within its jurisdiction to dictate how drugs are prescribed.

“The decision to prescribe a drug for off-label use is part of the ‘practice of medicine’,” Health Canada says. “It involves the health care professional diagnosing a patient’s symptoms and deciding which treatment would be most appropriate for that patient. The provincial and territorial Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons regulate the practice of medicine.”

Konecny says he wants to get his concerns in front of Parliament.

“I want people that we vote to make tough decisions to make tough decisions on behalf of people that could benefit. It isn’t just diabetics. I’m all for the people who require this because they have morbid obesity or because it will help save their kidneys from kidney disease or prevent them from having a stroke,” he said.

An e-petition must have at least 500 valid signatures by the time the signing period closes before it can be presented to the House of Commons. While an MP must authorize the publication of an e-petition (which is not necessarily a sign of endorsement), it can be presented by any MP. The government has 45 days to issue a response once the petition has been presented to the House of Commons. The petitioner, supporters, signatories, and the Member of Parliament who authorized the online publication of the e-petition will be notified by email when the response is tabled in the House. A copy will also be found on the petitions website along with the original petition.

If a petition fails to reach 500 valid signatures, no further action will be taken, but it will remain visible online.

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