After Ozempic, a new diabetes treatment will arrive in Canada: Mounjaro. This drug is already highly sought after in the United States, but its misuse for rapid weight loss raises concerns.

The drug Ozempic, authorized in Canada in 2019, quickly became a tool of choice for treating people with type 2 diabetes. “It’s a very good drug for diabetic patients,” says Pierre-Marc Gervais, senior director pharmaceutical services to the Quebec Association of Proprietary Pharmacists.

However, the treatment also stood out for its ability to lose weight. In recent months, celebrities including Elon Musk have touted the drug’s benefits on social media, while the hashtag “Ozempic weight loss” has over 344 million views on TikTok, much to the dismay of professionals of health.

Now, Mounjaro, a new treatment also aimed at treating type 2 diabetes, is breaking into the American market and seems to lead to weight loss up to twice as great as with Ozempic, indicates Dr. Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret, endocrinologist and Director of the Professional Council of Diabetes Quebec.

This injectable drug was authorized on March 8 by Health Canada for people with type 2 diabetes. However, it is not currently available to Canadians. “The company that makes it says the demand is so high elsewhere in the world that they are unable, at this time, to supply Canada,” Gervais said.

Ozempic and Mounjaro were designed to mimic the action of hormones produced by the digestive system. “Basically, they’re created to help control blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes,” says Gervais.

Doctors are increasingly recommending it for diabetic patients for whom other treatments have not proven effective. By the end of 2022, 35,000 Quebecers were using the drug Ozempic each month, according to figures from the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) obtained by La Presse. This is 10,000 more than in 2021.

Seeing its impact on weight loss, the company Novo Nordisk, which manufactures Ozempic, marketed the same product, under a different name (Wegovy) and with a higher dose, intended for weight loss. . This drug, offered to obese or overweight adults with comorbidities, was authorized by Health Canada in 2021. However, it is not covered by the RAMQ. For its part, Mounjaro is not authorized in Canada for weight loss.

Experts are concerned that pharmaceutical companies seem to be banking on weight loss to increase the sale of their products. On Mounjaro’s website, it says in large print that “People taking Mounjaro lost up to 25 lbs.” Then it says in small print that “Mounjaro is not a weight loss drug.”

“It’s a way that is used to stimulate demand for a drug,” says pharmacist Pierre-Marc Gervais. “For someone who is diabetic or not, seeing these dramatic results, it can be very tempting to go to their doctor and ask for a prescription for this product. »

“Right now, the Mounjaro is advertising up to 25 pounds of weight loss,” adds Mr. Gervais.

This type of advertising also risks “increasing eating disorders,” says Dr. Rabasa-Lhoret. “I recently met a patient who clearly has a tendency towards anorexia who asked me for this drug to lose weight,” he illustrates.

The director of the Professional Council of Diabetes Quebec has planned to meet in the coming weeks with the leaders of Novo Nordisk, manufacturer of Ozempic. “We are uncomfortable. We would like the company to be clearer [as to the fact] that there are abuses currently,” he said.

“The concern for me in there, as a professional, is that there are a lot of prescriptions for weight loss and that we end up running out of supplies for our diabetic patients. And they need it right now,” added Mr. Gervais.