B.C. boosts coverage of four drugs, including diabetes med in Hollywood weight fad

VANCOUVER — British Columbia has expanded PharmaCare coverage of four drugs used to treat diabetes, heart failure and blood clots, including one medication the health minister says has been promoted as a weight-loss aid, "notably in Hollywood."

Adrian Dix says the drug sold under the brand name Ozempic will become available to more patients in B.C. with Type 2 diabetes, although the expansion falls short of regular benefit coverage.

But Dix says there's been a "dramatic increase" in demand for Ozempic, partly because of "influencers" who've promoted it for weight loss.

He says B.C. is carefully monitoring the situation to ensure the drug, which has been heavily advertised on North American television, is available for eligible patients with Type 2 diabetes.

The minister says Ozempic is a "very good drug" that's been approved and covered for Type 2 diabetes based on evidence from a "rigorous and independent process."

Dix told a news conference the other medications with newly expanded coverage are Jardiance, Forxiga and apixaban.

Forxiga and apixaban are now covered under regular benefits, when they had previously been limited, while the limited coverage of Jardiance is being expanded.

About nine per cent of Ozempic dispensed in B.C. has gone to American patients, Dix said.

He said he's asked the provincial PharmaCare program to review that "to ensure that we are protecting ... Canadians with respect to access to these drugs."

B.C. hasn't seen any shortages of Ozempic among covered patients, he added.

The expanded PharmaCare coverage of Ozempic and Jardiance means eligible patients now have to try just one other drug, metformin, before their doctor can request them, Dix announced Thursday.

A statement from the Health Ministry says the changes are expected to benefit thousands of patients with heart failure, Type 2 diabetes, blood clots and kidney disease.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2023.

The Canadian Press