Several individuals in Austria have been admitted to hospitals after consuming what authorities suspect to be counterfeit Ozempic, raising concerns throughout various parts of Europe regarding the circulation of fraudulent versions of this diabetes medication.
Ozempic, initially approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017 for the treatment of diabetes, has garnered widespread attention in recent times as a weight loss remedy, popularized by celebrities, TikTok influencers, and others. In 2021, a similar medication called Wegovy, featuring a higher dosage of Ozempic’s active component, semaglutide, also received approval.
The surge in Ozempic’s popularity has led to a shortage for diabetic patients in Europe, compelling criminal organizations to exploit this demand gap by introducing counterfeit injection pens into the market.
Patients who had been administered the suspected counterfeit Ozempic in Austria reported severe adverse effects such as hypoglycemia and seizures, strongly indicating that the spurious product might contain insulin, rather than semaglutide, as stated by officials.
The Austrian Federal Office for Safety in Health Care has yet to provide a response to inquiries about the current status of the affected patients, but authorities have confirmed that these counterfeit, one-milligram strength pens likely originated from illicit sources rather than authorized pharmacies. An official statement reads, “Stocks of the affected batch may still be in circulation or may have been obtained by other physicians via this illegal channel. Patients who have acquired Ozempic pre-filled pens directly from physicians not in charge of in-house pharmacies should contact them immediately.”
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the regulatory agency overseeing medicines and medical devices recently confirmed the discovery of mislabeled Ozempic pens at two unidentified wholesalers. These pens had been imported from legitimate suppliers in Austria and Germany, with authorities assuring that none of the pens had been distributed to patients.
The European Medicines Agency released a corresponding statement, confirming its support for national authorities in their ongoing investigations. The Agency’s alert has also prompted vigilance among medicine distributors across the European Union.
Despite Ozempic’s popularity, the medication comes with its limitations. Patients may eventually reach a weight loss plateau while using it. Physicians note that some individuals take Ozempic and similar drugs with the goal of shedding as much weight as possible, often becoming disheartened when progress stagnates. Consequently, some discontinue the medication, risking weight regain.
Although Ozempic may facilitate significant weight loss, it is not without potential side effects, such as facial aging, profound loss of appetite leading to malnutrition, and muscle mass reduction. Older patients taking these medications may face heightened concerns, as the loss of muscle mass in individuals aged over 65 increases their susceptibility to frailty, fractures, and falls. The preservation of muscle mass is vital for maintaining mobility and independence.