People have been hospitalised after taking a fake version of the weight-loss control jab Ozempic, with 369 drugs seized by the UK’s medicines safety regulator.
The fake jabs, obtained without prescription through black market suppliers, were seized by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
Ozempic, the brand name for semaglutide, and demand for the medicine has contributed to shortages in the product, which is also used for people with type 2 diabetes.
The watchdog said a low number of patients had been hospitalised and reported serious side effects, including hypoglycaemic shock. Others ended up in a coma, which indicates the pens may have contained insulin rather than semaglutide.
It has urged the public not to buy drugs without a prescription and warned buying prescription-only medicines online “poses a direct danger to health”.
Dr Alison Cave, MHRA chief safety officer, said: “Buying products such as Ozempic or Saxenda without a prescription, from illegally trading suppliers, significantly increases the risk of receiving something which is either fake or not licensed for use in the UK.
“Products purchased in this way do not meet our strict quality and safety standards, and taking such medicines may put your health at significant risk.”
“We are advising all members of the public not to use any pre-filled weight loss pens they may have bought online and instead to report it to us so that we can investigate and take any necessary action.”
UK health minister Will Quince said: “No one should put profit before the needs of patients, but fraudsters selling black market medicines like this are extremely dangerous and can put people’s health at risk.
“The medical advice is clear: patients should only use medicines like Ozempic or Saxenda where they’ve been prescribed it by a legitimate source, such as their GP or another legitimate prescriber.”
Following an investigation, the MHRA found the counterfeit Ozempic jabs had been brought into the UK from legitimate suppliers in Germany. No legitimate UK pharmacies or healthcare professionals had dispensed the fake jabs.
The German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices said last week that police authorities had been informed and Novo Nordisk, which makes the drug, is investigating.
According to reports earlier this week, several people were hospitalised in Austria after using suspected fake versions of Ozempic. The country’s health safety body was the first report of harm to users as a European hunt for counterfeiters widened.
Anyone who has experienced side effects after taking semaglutide is asked to report them via MHRA’s Yellow Card scheme.