Warning: Fake diabetes medication circulating

imago images 0302709862Dangerous counterfeits of a well-known diabetes medication surfaced (symbolic image): The Ozempic counterfeits contain another, unknown substance. (Source: IMAGO/Jaap Arriens)

Authorities warn against counterfeit diabetes drug Ozempic. There is a significant health risk. How to recognize the fake.

Diabetics beware: Anyone who uses the medication Ozempic from the manufacturer Novo Nordisk should definitely check the contents. Because there are counterfeits of this preparation in circulation, which are most likely dangerous to your health . The Freiburg regional council announced this last week in consultation with the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Social Affairs, Health and Integration. The counterfeits may now be widespread nationwide.

After the counterfeits of the diabetes medication appeared in the wholesale market, a federal authority intervened and asked Germany’s pharmacies to check the preparations they had in their possession. So far there is no evidence that patients have received counterfeits, the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) announced on Wednesday evening in Bonn. Pharmaceutical companies and wholesalers should also open and inspect the packages.

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic is a prescription medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. It is given as an injection under the skin once a week. The drug contains the active ingredient semaglutide, which lowers blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The active ingredient can also be used as a weight loss aid, especially in people who are very overweight. In Germany, doctors have been able to prescribe the semaglutide-containing drug “Wegovy” from Novo Nordisk for this purpose since the summer of this year. The active ingredient has also become more widely known because some celebrities claim to have lost weight with it.

“Significant health risks”

However, the Ozempic counterfeits do not contain the active ingredient semaglutide, but rather another, unknown substance. This could cause serious side effects if injected. The RP therefore points out that the counterfeits must under no circumstances be used and should be taken to a pharmacy immediately. The authorities warned of “significant health risks”.

The authorities emphasized that the original preparations from the manufacturer Novo Nordisk pose no danger. The originals are visually easy to distinguish from the counterfeits.

This is what the original looks like

View of the original Ozempic preparations.
View of the original Ozempic preparations. (Source: RP Freiburg)

The original diabetes medication Ozempic contains the label “Ozempic 1 mg”. The word “injection” is written underneath. The original poses no danger.

This is what the fake looks like

This is what the fake looks like.
View of counterfeit Ozempic preparations. (Source: RP Freiburg)

The fake contains the words “once a week” and above it says “subcutaneous use”. Counterfeiting poses a major health risk.

According to its own information, the regional council is in close contact with, among others, the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM), with the Danish manufacturer Novo Nordisk and with pharmaceutical authorities in other countries. There are indications that the supply chain also affects these countries.

Wholesaler in southwest Baden-Württemberg under suspicion

At the center of the investigation is a pharmaceutical wholesaler in southwest Baden-Württemberg. There is a suspicion that the company from the Lörrach district traded in the counterfeits, the Lörrach branch of the Freiburg public prosecutor’s office announced on Wednesday.

According to an advertisement from the Freiburg regional council, 199 packages originally came from an Austrian wholesaler and were delivered to another pharmaceutical dealer in Great Britain at the beginning of September 2023. There the medicines were recognized as counterfeit.The public prosecutor’s office reported that it is still being determined whether the pharmaceutical wholesaler in the southwest also marketed the allegedly counterfeit drug in Germany or delivered it to companies there. This also includes the exact sales channels and internal responsibilities. An investigation is underway in the case – the name of the company or its exact location were not mentioned. “The criminal investigation is expected to take some time,” the statement said.


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