Regulators sound alarm over fake GLP-1 RAs


By Geir O'Rourke

13 Nov 2023

Patients have been advised to double-check the authenticity of any semaglutide or liraglutide products after Australian and international regulators announced the seizure of hundreds of ‘fake’ pre-filled pens.

It comes as demand continues to rise for GLP-1 RAs, fuelled by their ability to aid weight loss, with US data showing prescription volumes rose 300% between early 2020 and the end of last year (link here).

With the agents in short supply, the TGA issued a safety alert back in May about counterfeit semaglutide being illegally imported into the country and has urged consumers to avoid buying products from unverified online sellers.

Since then, at least 14 batches have been seized at the border after being identified as fakes, according to the regulator.

These included Global Health Pharmaceuticals and Therapeutics 5mg vial and Peptides Lab 10mg vial, neither of which contained semaglutide as advertised, the TGA said.

Meanwhile, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) says it has seized 369 fake Ozempic (semaglutide) pens since January 2023, and has also received reports of fake Saxenda (liraglutide) obtained by members of the British public through non-legitimate routes.

None were seized before January 2023, it said in an announcement last month (link here).

Of particular concern, seized counterfeit products were very similar in appearance to genuine Ozempic, the agency noted.

It’s distributed photograph comparisons of fake and genuine pens as part of its public awareness campaign, showing the two look virtually identical, with only small differences particularly in the shade of blue used.

Picture of a counterfeit Ozempic pen on the top and a genuine Novo Nordisk product on the bottom. Source: MHRA

Both regulators advised patients to only buy these products with a prescription at a legitimate, registered pharmacy to be safe.

“Consumers should be wary of online offers for products claiming to be Ozempic, Saxenda, Wegovy or semaglutide, or any other hard to obtain products,” the TGA said.

“Counterfeit medicines can’t be imported under any circumstances.”

“Consumers are strongly advised not to use products unless they have come from a trusted source.”

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