Expanded coverage of Ozempic is for Type 2 diabetes patients, not weight loss hopefuls: Dix


52-year-old Shauna Magrath of Vancouver, who is diabetes-free, lost 50 pounds after starting a six-month journey on Ozempic last April.

Roughly 400,000 British Columbians who have Type 2 diabetes now have better access to Ozempic — a drug that lowers blood sugar levels and can reduce body weight — after Pharma Care extended coverage of the drug Thursday.

The Semaglutide injection has been moved forward from a third-line treatment to a second-line one — meaning Type 2 diabetes patients will still need to try and fail at a first-line treatment to qualify for coverage. One shot costs around $200, and can last for up to six weeks depending on a person’s dosage.

While speaking to reporters on Thursday, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix emphasized the expanded coverage only applies to Type 2 diabetes patients, not for weight loss hopefuls.

“Ozempic has been used and publicized in some places, notably in Hollywood, for weight loss in addition for its criteria for Type 2 diabetes,” said Dix, who has Type 1 diabetes.

The Kardashians are among the celebrities suspected of using the once-a-week medication, which has been dubbed “Hollywood’s worst kept secret.” Elon Musk revealed on Twitter in November that he uses Ozempic, which was also a main sponsor of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.


While celebrity endorsements are suspected of playing a role in the Ozempic shortage in the U.S., supplies remain steady in Canada, according to the Drug Shortages Canada website.

The director of B.C. Diabetes says he’s not concerned about potential shortages, or the use of Ozempic as a weight loss drug.

“In British Columbia, the vast majority of people taking Ozempic are taking it for diabetes, and 80 per cent of people living with diabetes are overweight. So a drug that lowers weight and sugar and does it safely is the holy grail,” Dr. Tom Elliot told CTV News.

Not only does Elliot recommend the drug to all of his Type 2 diabetes patients, he says he wouldn’t hesitate to prescribe it to people who are obese who don’t have diabetes that have failed to lose weight through changes to their lifestyle.

“Diabetes is just one of the conditions that obese people are subject to — there’s sleep apnea, increased risk of heart disease and stroke. The benefits (of weight loss) go beyond preventing diabetes.”


52-year-old Shauna Magrath of Vancouver, who is diabetes-free, lost 50 pounds after starting a six-month journey on Ozempic last April.

She started taking the drug — prescribed by a doctor and paid for out-of-pocket — after finding it impossible to lose weight.

“It was so stubborn and I was so frustrated and I just felt so helpless and it’s given me a whole new lease on life,” she said.

But Magrath, who founded BEAUTYINK® in Vancouver, knows it’s not for everyone.

“Most people wouldn’t have been able to handle it,” said Magrath. “I got very, very nauseated from it and throwing up quite rapidly, and the onslaught of it comes on very intense. “

Elliot says Ozempic doesn’t work for about 10 per cent of people who try it because of the nausea and vomiting, but most people are able to get to the full dose of one milligram a week.

“It does take away the enjoyment of food. Some patients tell me they get constipated using it, but those are really the only issues,” said Elliot. “If you do get nausea or vomit, just back off the dose.”

Despite the discomfort, Magrath calls the drug “life-changing.”

“For people who are struggling with their weight gain, it’s an incredible option, you just have to maintain your diet after,” she said.

Magrath also points out that she has diabetes in her family.

“If I had continued to gain weight, I probably would have gone down that road…so I was just very conscious of it and wanted to lose weight,” she said.

Magrath has inspired some of her friends to take the drug as well.

“I have three girlfriends on it right now, plus I posted my journey on Instagram and from that I’ve had quite a few (direct messages), especially from people in the states.”

About nine per cent of prescriptions for Ozempic in B.C. are for U.S. patients, according to Dix.

“To put that in perspective, our overall prescribing in B.C. is at 0.4 per cent,” he said, adding the province is looking into the issue.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health says no provincial, federal or territorial drug plan covers Ozempic for weight loss.

With files from CTV Vancouver’s Michele Brunoro