What is Glucagon?
Glucagon is a hormone that helps the liver release glucose to raise blood glucose levels. It can be administered through injection, auto-injection pen or nasal spray.
Glucagon is generally used when a person with type 1 diabetes (T1D) is unable to swallow liquid or food because of severe hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) symptoms, including extreme drowsiness, unconsciousness or seizure. It is important to have glucagon on hand in case of an emergency and ensure others (especially caregivers of children with T1D) know where it is kept and how to use it.
Changes to Glucagon Availability in Canada
On July 10, 2023, Novo Nordisk announced that it was discontinuing their glucagon products in Canada, both the GlucaGen vial/vial pack and the GlucaGen Hypo Kits. This comes on the heels of a Health Canada’s announcement in April 2023 that glucagon (Glucagon for injection, rDNA origin) is in a Tier 3 shortage. In August 2022, Eli Lilly and Company announced the discontinuation of their Glucagon Emergency Kit from all markets, with the last expected date of distribution recently passing in June 2023. Eli Lilly subsequently pulled out of the glucagon field entirely in April 2023, when they divested their intranasal glucagon product Baqsimi to Amphastar Pharmaceuticals. This transaction is set to close in fall 2023.
In response to the Tier 3 shortage, Health Canada has been working with Amphastar to provide “designated drug” status for their generic glucagon injectable product. This status allows drugs approved in other countries (in this case, Amphastar’s glucagon is FDA-approved) to be eligible for “exceptional importation and sale” in Canada during drug shortages.
Novo Nordisk consulted closely with Health Canada during the decision-making process to discontinue sale of glucagon in Canada and are confident that Canadians will not be left without access to glucagon. Based on historical demand, the current supply of Novo Nordisk’s glucagon products in Canada (distributed by Paladin Labs) is expected to last until February 2024. For further information about ordering product, please contact Paladin Labs Inc. Customer Service at 1-866-340-1112. If you have any Medical Information questions, please contact Novo Nordisk Customer Care team at 1-800-465-4334.
Options for Glucagon in Canada
As of July 2023, the options for glucagon in Canada are as follows:
- Baqsimi intranasal glucagon (for ages 4 and up) – currently through Eli Lilly, transferring to Amphastar in Fall 2023
- Novo Nordisk GlucaGen vials and HypoKits – available until February 2024 (estimated)
- Amphastar Glucagon – available via designated drug status
It’s important to always have fast-acting sugar sources available with easy access when living with T1D, like glucose or dextrose tablets, full sugar (not diet) sodas, fruit juices or even table sugar.
JDRF Canada will provide any updates on further availability of glucagon products if and when they become available.