I Accidentally Bought Fake Ozempic — Here’s What I Learned

When Lexi Ortanez, a 26-year-old from the Philippines, could no longer fill her Ozempic prescriptions due to a lack of supply, she resorted to purchasing the drug from a friend of a friend — not knowing it was fake. This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Ortanez that has been edited for clarity.

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in February of 2023, and my doctor prescribed me Ozempic — the GLP-1 antagonist containing semaglutide that has become overwhelmingly popular in recent months. My mom is also diabetic and has the same prescription.

For the first several months, we had no trouble accessing Ozempic at our local pharmacy in Manila — the city in the Philippines where we live. But in the summer of that year, as celebrities and social media contributed to a major rise in interest in the drug, it became increasingly difficult to fill our prescriptions.


By September, my mom and I had gone a month and a half without taking the medication we desperately needed for our health. We each saw our blood sugar inching higher without it — especially my mom, whose diabetes is more severe than mine.

Around that time, a friend of mine told me her friend was selling Ozempic and that she could get it for me. She assured me it was legitimate and safe. While I was a little skeptical, I was unaware at that time that anyone was selling fake versions of Ozempic, so I told her I was interested.

When I inquired about the price for a one-month dose, it was only a little less than what it cost at the pharmacy, which gave me some reassurance. I figured the seller may have gotten it slightly cheaper from the manufacturer.

I went ahead and bought it

Though the seller did most of their transactions online, my friend played the middleman in the purchase and gave me the medication in person. It looked like the exact same packaging as my previous doses. It had an ice pack around it to keep it cool, just as it did from the drugstore.

But when I took it home and opened it up with my mom that evening, the box seemed incredibly flimsy. Typically, the box is quite sturdy — strong enough to store the pen and the needles in it for a month in the fridge. But with one pull, the box fell apart.

I took the pen out of the box and immediately noticed it looked slightly different than the ones I’d previously used. But I still wasn’t too concerned, and I was fully prepared to inject myself with the needle.

Thankfully, my mom worked at a pharmaceutical company, so she knows her stuff. She looked at the pamphlet that came with the pen and noticed the photo looked different from the pen we were holding. After examining the box and pen a little further, she felt certain the drug was not Ozempic — it was insulin.


I put the pen down and did some extra digging. I discovered a page on the manufacturer Novo Nordisk’s website showing a side-by-side comparison of real Ozempic pens and what fake versions may look like. That’s when I knew for sure that it was fake.

My mom and I put the pen back in the box, and I contacted my friend to tell her the drug was fake. She argued with me, telling me it just came from a different manufacturer, but I was adamant. I did eventually get a refund, but I had to give the pen back in return. Fortunately, I had taken photos and videos as proof.

Weeks later, when I had a checkup with my doctor, I showed her the footage, and she confirmed that the pen had, in fact, been insulin. I later interviewed Novo Nordisk about it, and they, too, confirmed that it was fake.

It’s a common occurrence

I’ve since learned that I’m far from the only one who’s had this experience.

The World Health Organization recently issued a medical product alert on falsified Ozempic, warning of three falsified batches of semaglutide detected in Brazil, the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, and the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also announced last year that it was investigating a range of fraudulent activity involving drugs claiming to contain semaglutide and tirzepatide.

What scared me the most about the whole thing was not the impact it could have had on me, but what could have happened to my mom. If she had injected herself with the pen, she could have gone into diabetic shock — and it could have been fatal.

I thought about posting about the experience on TikTok, where I regularly share my experiences on Ozempic, but I was hesitant because of my friend’s involvement in the whole thing. My mom was able to convince me, emphasizing how important it was to tell other people about the risks of purchasing fake Ozempic.

So I made the video, advising everyone to avoid getting Ozempic from anywhere but the pharmacy. It may be hard to get, but it's better safe than sorry. The video didn’t get many views at first, but as the demand for Ozempic has grown, so too have the views. It’s now been seen by more than 13,000 people.


DAY 218 | Warning: This is a long video, but I was scammed for fake Ozempic #ozempicjourney #ozempic #ozempicphilippines #semaglutide #diabetic #foryoupage #fyp #ozempicweightloss #tiktokphilippines #tiktokph #plussizeph #fakeozempic #weightlossjourney #scam

♬ original sound - lexi ortanez

I now only buy my medication from the pharmacy

While I have seen beauty clinics and other businesses selling Ozempic, I’m not taking any chances.

Still, I experience ongoing issues with supply. It’s better than it was, but there are still times when we have to wait a few weeks before getting our next pen. Currently my mom and I actually share one pen because of lack of supply, which lasts each of us two weeks.

Fortunately, our pharmacy actually contacts us to let us know when new stock has come in, which has made ordering it a lot easier these past few months.

My mom and I recently had our quarterly checkup and got some tests done, which revealed that my blood sugar levels are now in the normal range. I’m really thankful for that. My mom’s are still a little bit higher, but they’ve significantly improved from her last one.

This whole experience taught me the importance of research and due diligence when it comes to medication. If you’re ever considering buying medicine from somewhere other than a pharmacy, be sure to do extensive research and ensure the drugs are legitimate. If something happens, you're putting your life on the line.

Through all of this, I’ve realized I would rather buy medication at the pharmacy to be sure that it's real rather than gamble not only my money but also my health.

If you're ever unable to fill your prescription and you’re really desperate, go to your doctor and tell them there’s no stock. There is likely an alternative they can prescribe in the meantime, and it will be a much better option than taking something that is potentially fake and harmful. This is your health, and you can’t mess around with it.


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