At Alberta Blue Cross®, we pride ourselves on our approach to drug management. Simply put, we consider the scientific, therapeutic and economic value of drugs to create plans that are sustainable while prioritizing our plan members’ health needs. And because of our expertise in drug management, we field a lot of questions from our clients—plan sponsors large and small.

One category of drug we’re getting questions about is Ozempic.

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic is approved by Health Canada as a treatment for adults with Type 2 diabetes. It belongs to a class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. This class of medication has been successful in managing diabetes as it lowers blood sugar levels while improving overall blood sugar control.  

Why does it seem like everyone’s talking about it?

Ozempic has been featured in the news a lot lately, and not just because of the impact it has on people with Type 2 diabetes. It’s been getting media coverage for a use for which it isn’t approved in Canada: weight loss.

In addition to media coverage, insurers are talking about it as well. The growth in Ozempic use is driving up diabetic drug costs as well as overall costs of drug plans. To ensure Ozempic is being used for its approved purpose, other insurers now need to tighten their management of the drug.

How is Alberta Blue Cross® managing this drug?

From day 1, on our most utilized formulary—our managed formulary—we have been managing Ozempic through our Special Authorization process. Coverage has been, and will continue to be, approved only for use in Type 2 diabetes as per the Health Canada approved indication.

Health Canada provides guidance on prescription drugs as they are Canada’s regulatory body that approves drugs and their indications for use. We therefore align our Special Authorization criteria to a drug’s Health Canada-approved use(s).

If you’re not an Alberta Blue Cross® plan sponsor, you may wish to find out how Ozempic is being managed on your plan.

If plan members are looking for weight loss drugs, what’s available to them?

Chronic obesity was recently designated a chronic disease by the World Health Organization (WHO). It can lead to other serious and costly health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even certain types of cancer. In Canada, about 1 in 4 people are living with obesity. In Alberta, our obesity rate is slightly higher at about 28 per cent.

Historically, private drug plans haven’t covered weight loss drugs as it was classified as a ‘lifestyle’ drug category. However, given the recognition of obesity as a chronic health condition with costly co-morbidities, many plan sponsors are looking to update and modernize their drugs plans to include coverage for weight loss drugs.

Currently, weight loss drugs available in Canada include Contrave, Saxenda and Xenical. Wegovy, which contains the same ingredient as Ozempic, but in a higher dose, is also approved in Canada; however, it isn’t available to Canadians yet because of supply issues due to the high demand internationally, particularly in the US.

What do plan sponsors need to know?

At Alberta Blue Cross®, we closely monitor the growing pipeline of new drugs, evaluating their impact on our benefit plans at the earliest stages. This strategy ultimately drove our decision to list Ozempic via Special Authorization on our managed plans, ensuring the best use of drug plan dollars from day 1.

Monitoring drug and health technology pipeline is just one of the many ways we stay up to date on the ever-changing benefits landscape. We are happy to share this expertise to help clients achieve their benefit plan goals.

Questions?

We’re here to help you make the best decisions for your company and your workforce. If you have any questions about this topic or other plan management strategies, please don’t hesitate to contact your Alberta Blue Cross® representative.

8 Comments

  • ginette says:

    my boyfriend put me on his drug plan and you guys messed everything up my name is in your computer but I’m scared to apply for benefits with

  • Beverly Basiuk says:

    Why is Ozempic the needle covered but not Ozempic the pill not covered under alberta health. I am a type 2 diabetic and have taken two needles once a week for many years. My side is all blue and black.I am a senior and cannot pay $309 a month for the pill.when will you cover the pill on your pkan

  • Dr. Saima Khan says:

    Quite an informative article. Ozempic can help manage a healthy weight, provided patients also practice other healthy habits, such as portion control, physical activities, etc.

    • Trish Bjornson says:

      As someone who has gone through a radical hysterectomy, and a massive weight gain due to the medical induced menopause, I can tell you for a fact that “portion control & healthier habits” is utter tripe. I find it ludicrous that a plan we’ve paid into for years has taken this stance. I didn’t choose to have cancer, I didn’t choose this weight gain, I was not lazy or unhealthy. This is just another point of frustration on an already garbage situation.

  • Keith says:

    Ozempic will work but watch that you’ll lose muscle mass as well as the visceral fat from your body. Upon my own research, I have come across two good books that may help people fight the good fight against eating sugar, and how the industry has incorporated so much sugar into most of our foods that it feels like an epidemic of obesity. Metabolical by Dr. Robert Lustig and the diabetes code by Dr. Jason Fung, along with their YouTube videos, have helped educate me further and understanding what is happening to our bodies.

    I want this post to not just be a comment. I want to offer that shortcut that people may not know about type two diabetes and what I learned to that. It’s a dietary disease not necessarily a hereditary disease and yes it can be reversed. I cannot say that it’s simple, but what is hurting us is sugar, refined, sugar, refined foods, corn, fed animals if you eat meat or fish, but I won’t get into the chemicals that they use also for the green stuff that’s good for us we have to eat sometime. I am trying to offer a shortcut for those that don’t want to do the research I did watch some of those videos. They’re pretty interesting on what Dr. Lustig has to say. Dr. Fung will teach the fasting side of things and how you can get off insulin and other medication’s I’m halfway there. I just need some help in getting my pancreas to release insulin.

    Believe it or not insulin is what causes insulin resistance. If you don’t think this is true, why is our intake going up each time you can only cram so much sugar into an insulin cell, then it spills over into your blood. The other issue is fructose your liver can only metabolize this. This will cause the metabolic syndrome and fatty liver and a fatty pancreas but again I’m no professional I shouldn’t be saying this unless it’s been approved by Blue Cross but if everybody can, please look into what the two books have to say it would really help, you get started and educate you better on what’s happening to your body.

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