Patients harmed by fake Ozempic, Saxenda pens

Regulatory authorities in Europe have said there have been cases of patients being hospitalised after taking falsified copies of Novo Nordisk’s diabetes and obesity medicines Ozempic and Saxenda, now found in multiple countries around the world.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK and Austria’s Federal Office for Safety in Health Care (BASG) have both reported a small number of incidents in which patients taking the knock-offs were admitted with side effects such as low blood sugar and seizures.

The adverse reactions are thought to have occurred because the counterfeit pen injectors contain insulin, rather than semaglutide or liraglutide, the active ingredients in Ozempic and Saxenda, respectively. Both drugs are GLP-1 agonists that are used to treat diabetes and have become sought-after as obesity treatments thanks to their weight-loss properties.

In a statement, the MHRA said it had “received reports of a very small number of people who have been hospitalised after using potentially fake weight-loss pens,” while an alert from the BASG referred to “several patients” harmed by Ozempic counterfeits.

Earlier this week Novo Nordisk’s Austrian subsidiary issued a fresh warning about falsified Ozempic and Saxenda pens that it said were “prevalent” in both illegal and legal distribution channels in Austria as well as other countries. The update confirms that the counterfeits are insulin pens with fake Ozempic and Saxenda labels.

The MHRA said it has seized 369 potentially falsified Ozempic pens since January, and has also received reports of knock-off Saxenda pens that had been obtained by patients in the UK through non-legitimate channels.

MHRA chief safety officer Dr Alison Cave 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,” she added.

‘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.”

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