(NewsNation) — Americans are increasingly turning to Mexico and Canada to get affordable Ozempic, the weight loss drug in high demand.
One woman went down to Mexico to get Ozempic after it was prescribed to her, saying she was able to purchase it at a Costco in Cabo San Lucas.
“I didn’t have any problems going through customs or security or TSA,” said Gina Kingswood on her YouTube channel.
A TikTok user posted about her experience purchasing Ozempic in Mexico as well, saying, “I get this question a lot about the box of Ozempic I got from Mexico. I got the starter box and that box cost me $285.”
While the popularity of Ozempic remains high, it comes with serious potential side effects like thyroid rumors and cancer. Patients also report common side effects like nausea and abdominal pain.
“Ozempic face” is another reported side effect. Doctors say patients’ faces are sometimes left looking hollowed out and rapidly aged due to the dramatic weight loss.
“When it comes to facial aging, fat is typically more friend than foe,” plastic surgeon Dr. Oren Tepper told the New York Times. “Weight loss may turn back your biological age, but it tends to turn your facial clock forward.”
The practice of medical tourism isn’t new in the U.S. as people regularly travel in search of more affordable healthcare and prescriptions. With the demand for Ozempic high in the U.S., availability is low and costs are high.
Ozempic treats type 2 diabetes, while Wegovy is approved for people wanting to treat obesity and weight-related concerns. Both drugs are “semaglutides,” a class of drug used for long-term weight management.
According to GoodRx, Ozempic costs at least $915 a month without insurance. Many health care plans will cover the drug for diabetics but not for people who want to take it for weight loss.
“You’re looking at a health equity issue here when you’re talking about these weight loss drugs that very often we see in communities who you know are financially challenged,” said Dr. Carla Robinson.
“They were prepared to give it to diabetics and that’s how much they made. And now all of a sudden you aren’t just using it for diabetics, you are using it for weight loss. And they just weren’t prepared for the weight loss patients,” said pharmacist Daniel Lang.
Patients aren’t just shopping for a lower price, low availability is also driving medical tourism for Ozempic, The drug first appeared on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s drug shortage list in August.
“Nine percent of the 30,000 prescriptions for semaglutide, the drug sold as Ozempic, filled across the province each month of 2022 were for U.S. citizens. That’s 22 times higher than the percentage of prescriptions filled for U.S. citizens for all drugs,“ said British Columbia’s Health Minister Adrian Dix.
Now, Canadian websites like canshipmeds.com will deliver Ozempic to your door, removing the need to cross borders to get the drug. The practice is becoming commonplace for Americans as there is no shortage of the drug in Canada, according to Dix.