UK warns of fake Ozempic pens after hospitalisations

(Reuters) -Britain on Thursday cautioned the public about buying fake weight-loss pens claiming to contain Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug Ozempic or weight-loss drug Saxenda after reports of a “very small number” of hospitalisations.

The warning from the country’s medicines regulator comes days after several people were hospitalised in Austria after using suspected fake versions of Ozempic amid a Europe-wide hunt for imitations of the hugely popular drug.

“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,” UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said in a statement.

Serious side-effects reported in those hospitalised, including hypoglycaemic shock and coma, indicate that the fake pens may contain insulin rather than semaglutide, the agency said.

The Danish maker of the drug, Novo Nordisk, earlier this month flagged a surge in online offers of counterfeit Ozempic as well as its weight-loss drug Wegovy, both based on semaglutide, as it scrambles to catch up with overwhelming demand.

British Health Minister Will Quince said in a statement, “The MHRA have our full support in cracking down on these illegal online suppliers to ensure that patients are protected.”

MHRA said it has seized 369 potentially fake Ozempic pens since January this year, and has also received reports of fake Saxenda pens that have been “obtained by members of the public in the UK through non-legitimate routes”.

Last week, the European Medicines Agency had also warned about the fake weight-loss pens in the European Union and UK with labels in German.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Shilpi Majumdar)