Report: Three US Residents Suffering from Hypoglycemia Used Suspected Counterfeit Ozempic

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Report comes after the FDA seized thousands of counterfeit Ozempic units.

Medical Concept: Hypoglycemia. Image Credit: Adobe Stock Images/cacaroot

Image Credit: Adobe Stock Images/cacaroot

According to an article published by Reuters, three US residents experienced hypoglycemia last year after using what was believed to be a counterfeit version of Ozempic (semaglutide), Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 receptor agonist. Additionally, the report stated that one person experienced hypoglycemia as a result of injecting a compounded version of the drug. These reported cases come during a time in which reports have grown regarding the improper use of Ozempic for the purpose of cosmetic weight loss. As a result, numerous manufacturers of fake versions are attempting to cash in on the product.1

Ozempic isn’t the only medication falling victim to counterfeit manufacturers. Wegovy, Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 receptor agonist, has also been dealing with knockoff suppliers. According to NBC, many patients are seeking these alternatives due to the fact that they are difficult to find and also expensive, with the average cost being $1,000 a month without insurance. Despite lacking FDA approval, some compounding pharmacies are reportedly offering the fake products ranging from $100 to $200 a month, with searches for phrases such as “Ozempic dupe” increasing over 373%, according to the article.2

Earlier this month, Eli Lilly and Company issued an open letter cautioning against the use of its medicines for cosmetic weight loss. Citing the fact that neither Mounjaro or Zepbound are indicated for cosmetic purposes, Lilly stressed that both are intended to treat serious diseases. Additionally, caution is advised for patients with severe gastrointestinal conditions and the medications should only be prescribed by licensed healthcare professionals.

Back in November, Forbes released guidance on how to spot fake pens for Wegovy, Ozempic, and Mounjaro. Some specific warning signs of counterfeit products include, but are not limited to the size of Ozempic pens, which show the proper dose once dialed up and are only available in doses up to 2 mg; grammatical errors on the packaging; and dosing of Wegovy, which only comes in doses of 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1 mg, 1.7 mg, and 2.4 mg.3

According to Reuters, a total of 3,316 reports of fake Ozempic were sent to America’s Poison Center in 2023, up more than double from 2022.1

“Most were non-serious complaints of symptoms known to be side effects of the drug, such as nausea and vomiting that did not require hospitalization. Sixty-six of those reports involved hypoglycemia, and nearly all of them appeared to have used brand-name Ozempic,” said Kaitlyn Brown, managing director, America’s Poison Center, in an interview with Reuters.

Last month, Novo Nordisk filed a lawsuit against multiple Florida-based pharmacies, alleging that they produced what the drugmaker called “impure” duplicates of its weight loss drug. The company currently holds all rights for the use of semaglutide, the primary ingredient in both Ozempic and Wegovy.4

“This exclusivity has led to uncertainties regarding the products that compound pharmacies market to consumers, stated Terry Turner, in an article published by Consumer Notice. “Novo Nordisk examined products offered as semaglutide by two pharmacies in Florida, Wells Pharmacy and Brooksville Pharmaceuticals.

References

1. Exclusive: Suspected fake Ozempic linked to three US cases of hypoglycemia. Reuters. January 24, 2024. Accessed January 25, 2024. https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/suspected-fake-ozempic-linked-three-us-cases-hypoglycemia-2024-01-24/

2. ‘Pretty dangerous': Doctors warn knockoffs of Ozempic and Wegovy are risky. NBC Washington. December 12, 2023. Accessed January 25, 2024. https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/pretty-dangerous-doctors-warn-knockoffs-of-ozempic-and-wegovy-are-risky/3492744/

3. Counterfeit Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro Pens Reported To FDA: How To Spot A Fake. Forbes. November 9, 2023. Accessed January 25, 2023. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ariannajohnson/2023/11/09/counterfeit-ozempic-wegovy-mounjaro-pens-reported-to-fda-how-to-spot-a-fake/?sh=63b6fb511439

4. Ozempic Manufacturer Sues Florida Pharmacies Over ‘Impure’ Weight Loss Drug Copies. Consumer Report. December 11, 2023. Accessed January 25, 2024. https://www.consumernotice.org/news/ozempic-manufacturer-sues-florida-pharmacies-over-impure-weight-loss-drug-copies/

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