Health authorities are warning of a drastic rise in fraudulent Ozempic pens after several people in Austria were hospitalized from injecting themselves with a pseudo substance.
The patients suffered hypoglycemia and seizures, indicating that the pens contained insulin instead of semaglutide — Ozempic’s active ingredient.
It’s unclear whether the users obtained the dodgy drugs from a licensed medical provider or whether they sought it out via a black market.
In recent months, Ozempic has become the hottest prescription on the market, beloved by the A-List and touted as a quick fix for shedding unwanted pounds.
The medication, initially designed for people with Type 2 diabetes, is now in short supply in many markets around the world, allowing criminals to swoop in.
“It appears that this shortage is being exploited by criminal organizations to bring counterfeits of Ozempic to market,” Austria’s health safety regulator BASG said in a statement on Monday.
It comes just weeks after it was reported that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating numerous fraudulent schemes of counterfeit Ozempic trafficking in the US.
Austria’s BASG did not provide an exact number of people harmed by the fake Ozempic, or say how long-lasting the adverse effects would be on their health, according to Reuters.
On Tuesday, the European Union’s Medicines Verification System, which conducts digital surveillance of drugs dispensed by pharmacists, said no fakes had emerged in retail pharmacies in Austria.
However, the European Medicines Agency along with authorities in Germany and Britain are currently investigating a case where bogus injection pens with German labels in genuine Ozempic packaging were sold from a wholesaler in Austria to Germany, and from there, on to two British wholesalers.
Other countries, including the US, are also trying to crack down on Ozempic scammers.
In May, the Australian government revealed that they had also uncovered illegal imports of fake Ozempic into their country.
This past summer, it was reported that a counterfeit version of the drug was found on the shelves of an American pharmacy, which has not been publicly named.
That revelation prompted Novo Nordisk, the Danish manufacturer of Ozempic, to release photos of the phony pens and cartons.
“The counterfeit product appears to have contained another type of diabetes medication, insulin glargine injection, that works differently than Ozempic,” the company said in an accompanying statement, per CBS News.
Meanwhile, the FDA has warned against using any off-brand semaglutide, urging consumers to stick to big labels, such as Ozempic and sister drug, Wegovy.
However, the shortage of those drugs has some New York City residents seeking “shady” imitations.
One Manhattan fashion executive recently told The Post that she is currently taking off-brand semaglutide in the hopes it will help her lose the excess baby weight.
But even taking brand-name Ozempic prescribed by a doctor is not without its own set of risks.
Earlier this year, one ER doc took to Twitter to write: “The amount of people coming to the ER for the side effects of Ozempic. Diarrhea. Nausea. Bloating.”
Meanwhile, other medics have sounded the alarm of additional side effects, including blurred vision, kidney failure and gallstones.