Belgium’s drug regulator said it had seized counterfeit versions of semaglutide, the active ingredient in Novo Nordisk's popular obesity drug Wegovy, which is in the form of injector pens and contains insulin.
On suspicion of being fake, the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP), which is the drug regulatory authority of Belgium, took nine mailed packages of GLP-1 medicines into custody this year. These packages include Wegovy and Novo's diabetes drug, Ozempic. FAMHP reported that two of those packages contained drugs not manufactured by Novo Nordisk or another GLP-1 drug manufacturer.
A lab analysis confirmed that one of them contained insulin. Insulin is used to treat diabetes and may cause serious health problems like hypoglycemia, leading to dangerously low blood sugar and seizures when not properly administered.
Last week, health inspectors in Australia reported that many people were admitted after injecting suspected fake versions of Ozempic.
BASG, the country's health safety regulator, stated that the patients experienced side effects suggesting the product contained insulin instead of semaglutide but did not comment on whether it had been confirmed through lab analysis.
Britain issued a warning on Thursday regarding the purchase of potentially counterfeit weight-loss injection pens that claim to be either Ozempic or Novo Nordisk's older weight-loss drug, Saxenda. This caution comes following reports of a "very small number" of hospitalizations.
The increasing demand for Ozempic and other weight-loss drugs has led to shortages and a rise in counterfeits.
A spokesperson for Australia's health regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, stated that this year the agency concluded 14 cases of counterfeit obesity drugs.
Last week, Belgium's health minister announced the country's intention to temporarily prohibit the use of Ozempic for weight loss treatment for a few weeks or months. This decision is due to concerns that such usage could lead to a shortage of the medicine originally approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, which is the primary purpose of GLP-1 drugs.
Law enforcement, anti-counterfeiting, and public health officials took steps by opening inquiries into complaints of fake drugs, monitoring e-commerce and social media for purchase offers or advertisements, and training customs officials to address counterfeits to stem the surge.
(Input from various media sources.)