In Austria, several patients were sent to hospitals after using a fake version of the diabetes drug, Ozempic.
On October 23, the Austrian Federal Crime Office stated that those ingesting the fake Ozempic for off-label weight loss may have died if they hadn't received emergency care. The proliferation of fake Olympic pens around Europe was alerted by the European Medicines Agency last week.
Delivery delays for the blockbuster diabetes drug, Ozempic, a medicine that has been more popular for dramatic weight loss, have been exploited by criminal groups. Now, a European hunt has ensued.
The Austrian Federal Health Office cautioned that they were peddling bogus injection pens that include insulin rather than semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic.
Semaglutide is licensed to treat those with type 2 diabetes. Because of the scarcity, and overwhelming demand for the product, criminal organizations have begun taking advantage of and selling fake injection pens.
"The syringes can be obtained legally only by physicians through pharmacies or by physicians who have a home pharmacy. In this case, the syringes are likely to have been obtained via another route."- The Austrian Federal Crime Office
Counterfeit medicines might be harmful to one's health, as these fake medicines can potentially be fatal because of the unproven quality, potential contaminants, and unidentified substances.
The authorities cautioned individuals to throw away any counterfeit versions "from dubious sources" to prevent any harm to users. Stocks of the impacted batch may still be in use or have been obtained by other doctors using this method, they said.
To protect the supply for diabetic patients, Belgium has announced plans to temporarily restrict the use of weight-loss medication for a few weeks or months as a health safety regulator.
Frank Vandenbroucke, the minister of health, told RTBF that it is essential to save this medication for those who really need it. If not, those who need the medication for health reasons could face real harm.
Vandenbroucke added that they have “told doctors that they must reserve this drug for their patients who have type 2 diabetes, but we see that this strategy does not work.”
"I know that this drug can also be useful for people who suffer from morbid obesity, so we obviously need to discuss it. But I am convinced that we need a strong and legal signal because simple recommendations are not enough," he said.
For now, as the hunt for counterfeiters widens, people should be aware of where they are purchasing their medication and avoid online offers to avoid adverse reactions.
- Austrian Federal Office for Safety in Healthcare. Warning of counterfeit Ozempic - Update 23.10.2023 NEW.
- Ozempic. Using Your Ozempic Pen.