Fake versions of the popular diabetes medicine Ozempic have been found at wholesalers in the European Union and United Kingdom, the European Medicines Agency warned Wednesday, prompting an alert to patients to check their medicines carefully.
There’s no evidence fake Ozempic pens have been dispensed to patients from legal pharmacies and no indication any patients have been harmed, the EMA said in a statement. The fake pens were caught because they were packaged with real serial numbers that were flagged as inactive when the packs were scanned.
“Check the patient information leaflet for Ozempic to see what the genuine Ozempic pens should look like,” the EMA said in its warning for patients. “You must not use Ozempic pens that you suspect are falsified as this may lead to serious health consequences.”
An example of a fake pen posted by German regulators showed several differences from the real product, including different colors, lack of visible Ozempic branding, and additional numbering printed on the fake version. The regulators warned that “it cannot be ruled out that the counterfeit is being sold in Germany.”
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The fake pens were detected as Ozempic and similar medicines used for both diabetes and weight loss are in shortage in both the US and Europe. Novo Nordisk, the maker of Ozempic, warned in June that a counterfeit Ozempic pen was found in the US, “reportedly purchased at a retail pharmacy.”
The medicines can cost more than $1,000 a month in the US before insurance, and online sellers have proliferated. Both Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly have filed lawsuits against medical spas, wellness centers and compounding pharmacies to stop them from selling what they call “unlawful” copycats.
The EMA also cautioned Wednesday that patients buying medicine online should only do some from legal pharmacies.
Novo Nordisk said Wednesday that it’s “seen a significant increase in illegal online sales,” and that it looks into every counterfeit case it hears about. The drugmaker said it works with a company that specializes in monitoring and taking down of “illegal online offers,” and has also started “actual physical investigations where this is warranted.”
“Patients can protect themselves from counterfeits by only buying medicines from legitimate sources and with a prescription,” Novo Nordisk added.