Health Minister Christian Dubé took advantage of the study of Bill 15 on Health Quebec to question a group of pharmacists on the growing use of the drug Ozempic by people wanting to lose weight.
Ozempic is recommended to treat type 2 diabetes, and it is only in these circumstances that it is normally reimbursed by the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec.
However, in Quebec as elsewhere in the world, more and more patients are using it to lose weight.
“People deviate a little from the treatment of diabetes to go more generally on obesity,” slipped Minister Christian Dubé in an exchange with the Association of Pharmacists of Quebec Health Institutions (APEQ).
The Minister was reacting to a proposal by QPAT to create a register of prescribed medications for new uses, where they would appear while waiting for the National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services (INESSS) to decide on their spell.
Mr. Dubé then wanted to know how a registry would influence the use of a drug like Ozempic. “Let’s take the Ozempic. It would be put in the register, we would see that there are a lot of requests that are outside of diabetes, let’s say, and then we would ask INESSS to take a position on this drug with its cost versus benefits…” he suggested.
For her part, the president of QPAT, Julie Racicot, did not want to comment and suggested that Ozempic was really a special case on which the future register would have no effect.
A total of 35,745 people in Quebec are prescribed this drug marketed by Novo Nordisk, according to the most recent data from the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec, an increase of 47% in one year. Since being licensed in 2019, Ozempic has cost the state just over $8 million.
The Ministry of Health confirms that Ozempic is experiencing “significant growth in the public system”. But he says he’s not able to know how many prescriptions are for people who don’t have diabetes.
These are “the result of false declarations on the part of prescribers,” said spokesperson Marie-Claude Lacasse. “As a result, we don’t have a way to easily determine which prescriptions would have been covered for obesity. »
For its part, Health Canada issued a notice recently to remind the public that the use of Ozempic for weight loss “was not an approved indication”, even if doctors enjoy a certain leeway to this title.
“The decision to prescribe a drug for off-label use is part of the ‘practice of medicine’. The practice of medicine includes the diagnosis of a patient’s symptoms by a health care professional and a decision as to what treatment would be best for that patient. »
In some countries, the popularity of Ozempic among non-diabetics has been such that it has caused shortages. A phenomenon that does not, however, affect Canada, at least not for the moment.
“Health Canada has seen an increase in demand for this drug, and patients may be concerned that this will cause supply issues. We are committed to ensuring that patients get the medicines they need,” Canadian authorities said.