Dieters desperate to get hold of a ‘miracle’ new drug are risking their health buying fake versions online. Demand for diabetes medication Ozempic has soared since it was found its key ingredient, semaglutide, can cause significant weight loss.
But a global shortage of the drug means people are turning to the internet to buy it from unofficial sites, prompting the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to warn those buying these products are putting their health at risk.
Ozempic is available on the NHS as a treatment for managing blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
In May, it was also approved for weight loss under the brand name Wegovy but is yet to launch in the UK due to supply issues.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) warned Brits against buying fake Ozempic on the internet
The delay has led to a rise in ‘off-label’ prescribing — where medications are issued for something other than its intended use — leading officials to issue a national patient safety alert warning of the shortages and urging all healthcare providers against dishing out the drugs for obesity.
Now people are turning to adverts placed by users of social media sites including TikTok, Facebook and Instagram for it and other weight-loss drugs.
One patient, named only as Danielle, said she felt ill after injecting herself with what she thought was Ozempic but put it down to unpleasant side effects.
She and a friend ordered some injection pens after being approached on social media but now suspect it was insulin they received.
‘It woke me up and my heart was beating so fast I honestly thought I was going to have a heart attack,’ she told The Times.
‘That obviously scared me and I honestly felt like I was going to die.’
Ozempic’s manufacturer Novo Nordisk said it is in ‘close dialogue’ with local health authorities to prevent fake versions of the drug being sold
An MHRA spokeswoman said: ‘Buying Ozempic, or any medicinal product, from illegally trading online suppliers significantly increases the risk of getting a product which is either falsified or not licensed for use in the UK.
‘Purchasing from illegal suppliers means there are no safeguards to ensure products meet our quality and safety standards, and taking such medicines may put your health at risk.
‘If you suspect you’ve had an adverse reaction to Ozempic or any other medicinal product, are worried about its safety or effectiveness, or suspect it is not a genuine product, please report it to our Yellow Card scheme.’
A spokesperson for producers Novo Nordisk said: ‘Patient safety is a top priority for Novo Nordisk and we are in close dialogue with all relevant stakeholders and local health authorities to support patients against falsified products.
‘Where we are made aware of websites, marketplaces or social media posts making illicit or off-label promotions for our medicines (eg counterfeit or selling without requiring prescription) we assess the best course of action to take, which can include attempting to remove these from the internet and further investigating them.’