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What’s the Buzz About Wegovy?

Get the facts about Wegovy, how fast it works, who should (and should not) use it, and whether it is covered by your ASEBP benefits.

After years of persistent shortages, Canadians are now able to access Wegovy (semaglutide), a weight loss medication made by the same manufacturers of Ozempic.

What is Wegovy and how does it work?

Wegovy is a weekly injectable drug that is approved in Canada for chronic weight management for individuals over the age of 12 who meet specific criteria. Wegovy works by mimicking natural gut hormones, which affect your appetite by reducing cravings and making you feel full. As with any treatment for weight management, a holistic approach that includes a healthy diet and regular physical activity is recommended to achieve maximum benefit and long-term success.

How do you take this drug?

Wegovy is provided as an easy-to-use injectable pen device that requires you to self-administer a weekly sub-cutaneous (under the skin) injection. Patients start with a very low starting dose that is slowly increased over three-to-four months, as tolerated.

As with any self-administered injection, your community pharmacist can walk you through each step and provide coaching, so you feel comfortable taking this medication at home.

How fast does it work?

Every individual responds differently to the medication; however, with Wegovy, the greatest weight reductions are usually seen in individuals with a BMI that exceeds 35. If taking this drug, you might expect to see a five to 10 per cent reduction in body weight in the first four months, especially when combined with healthy lifestyle changes.

Who should (and should not) use it?

Wegovy is intended for individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or higher and who have at least one weight-related condition, such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. Individuals with a BMI of 30 (or greater) are also eligible, even if they do not have any other risk factors.

Wegovy is contraindicated for individuals with a family history of thyroid cancer, due to the known consequences of taking this drug. It is not recommended for those with a history of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) or heart failure, and individuals with histories of liver and gallbladder disease should also use this drug with caution.

What are the potential side effects?

The most common side effects are gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, or stomach pains. Additional side effects may also include bloating, gas, headaches, fatigue, and dizziness.

If you are taking any other diabetes treatments, talk to your pharmacist about potential interactions to avoid the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

How does it differ from Ozempic?

Wegovy is made by the same manufacturers as Ozempic but contains a different dosage. In Canada, Wegovy is approved for chronic weight management, while Ozempic is approved for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

Is Wegovy covered by my ASEBP benefits?

As of April 1, 2024, Wegovy is eligible for coverage through ASEBP’s special authorization program. To apply, your health care provider must submit an application on your behalf. Please note that your provider has access to these forms.

It is important to emphasize that Wegovy is only covered for up to a maximum of 24 months, if you meet all special authorization criteria. This drug is no longer covered by the plan once you reach the lifetime maximum. Coverage maximums apply to most weight management drugs covered by ASEBP and other benefit providers.

Speak with your health care provider about whether this drug is right for you, including information on whether you qualify for enhanced special authorization coverage.

The information provided in this article is for personal use, reference, and education only. ASEBP does not provide medical advice. Before starting any medication or product, you should always consult with your pharmacist, health care provider, or call Alberta Health Link at 811.

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How ASEBP Supports You

In addition to covering prescription drugs to support weight management, ASEBP’s Extended Health Care cover psychology and counselling, to support weight management. For more information, contact a benefit specialist.

If you have ASEBP’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP), you can also access four cost-free hours of health coaching from a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and fitness coach to help you manage your weight and make positive lifestyle changes to maintain your weight loss.

Get in Touch

Your ASEBP benefit plan covers a range of health and wellness services.
For more information, email benefits@asebp.ca or call us at 1-877-431-4786. You can also schedule a phone, video, or in-person meeting with a benefit specialist at asebp.ca/contact-us.

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