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Doctor behind cross-border rush for Ozempic in B.C. is suspended in Nova Scotia

‘Based on volume alone, the prescribing is not in keeping with the standards of the profession’
Prescription drugs are seen on shelves at a pharmacy in Montreal on March 11, 2021. Nova Scotia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons has suspended the physician responsible for writing thousands of prescriptions for Americans seeking the diabetes and weight-loss drug Ozempic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Nova Scotia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons has suspended a doctor it says was responsible for thousands of prescriptions of the diabetes and weight-loss drug Ozempic that were mailed to Americans by two British Columbia pharmacies.

Dr. Gus Grant, registrar and CEO of the college, said Thursday the regulator first heard about the Nova Scotia-licensed practitioner from media coverage of B.C’s recent move to restrict access to the drug for non-residents.

Grant’s statement identifies the doctor, whose registration information with the college says he practises family medicine in Odessa, Texas, and graduated from Dalhousie University in 1977.

The Canadian Press is not naming the doctor, who did not respond to requests for comment to after-hours phone calls.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the restriction last month after revealing that just one doctor had been behind thousands of prescriptions for Ozempic that were sent across the border.

Grant said the Nova Scotia college also heard “serious concerns” from B.C.’s College of Pharmacists about the doctor, who lives in the U.S. but is licensed in Nova Scotia as a non-resident, though he hasn’t practised medicine there “for many years.”

He said B.C.’s College of Pharmacists wrote in a letter that the two pharmacies had filled more than 17,000 prescriptions for semaglutide, the non-brand name for Ozempic, from December 2022 to February 2023.

Grant said the college has now suspended the doctor’s licence on an “interim” basis and launched a full investigation, calling it a “serious matter.”

“Based on volume alone, the prescribing is not in keeping with the standards of the profession,” Grant said in a statement. “I cannot see how the volume of medications prescribed could possibly be supported by proper medical assessment and judgment. On its face, the prescribing appears incompetent.”

Grant said it’s incumbent on doctors licensed in Nova Scotia to uphold proper prescription practices “whether the care is delivered in-person or by way of virtual medicine.”

Last week, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced that the province was moving to restrict access to Ozempic, saying a massive ad campaign coupled with social media hype had boosted demand for the drug.

Ozempic, which is used to treat diabetes, is increasingly sought out by those wanting to lose weight, one of the drug’s so-called “off label” uses.

Dix said that typically only a small percentage of prescriptions in B.C. get filled for non-residents, but fears of shortages in the province ramped up when it was found upwards of 15 per cent of Ozempic prescriptions were going across the border.

He said he wanted a federal government review under the Food and Drugs Act due to the “unacceptable situation” around Ozempic prescriptions being issued by one out-of-province doctor and filled by two unnamed Metro Vancouver pharmacies.

Americans have long sought cheaper access to Canadian prescription drugs, and Ozempic as a weight-loss treatment from Canadian suppliers remains cheaper than in the U.S.

“We would never have sufficient supply of Ozempic in British Columbia to satisfy the needs of the American market,” Dix said in late March.

The Canadian Press

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