When Danielle felt ill after injecting what she thought was Ozempic, she initially put it aside, knowing that the diabetes drug could sometimes have unpleasant side effects.
But she got scared when she woke up in the night and found her heart pounding in her throat.
“It woke me up and my heart was beating so fast I honestly thought I was going to have a heart attack. It obviously scared me and honestly I felt like I was going to die,” she told the Times.
Ozempic – whose main ingredient is semaglutide – is only approved in the UK for the treatment of diabetes.
But its appetite-stimulating properties have led many to resort to the drug for weight loss, in what manufacturer Novo Nordisk describes as “off-label” use.
The soaring demand has meant that diabetes patients who have been prescribed the drugs have been unable to get them due to shortages, leading them in desperation to try disreputable distribution channels.
Danielle said she bought the pens from a seller who approached her on Facebook, after she was also offered them on Instagram for just £60 per injection.
She now suspects that her insulin was sold. A friend who bought the drug with her also suffered from similar side effects.
According to The Times, counterfeit versions of the drug that contain insulin or other unidentified substances are also being sold on TikTok.
Because they often look real, users often don’t realize they’re injecting anything other than semaglutide until they experience extreme side effects.
Francesca started buying Ozempic from an online pharmacy in 2018 to help deal with confidence and weight issues following the birth of her daughter.
As of April this year, she was unable to get the pens from a reputable seller – as she doesn’t have diabetes, she couldn’t get Ozempic through a GP.
Ready to try anything, the desperate mother, just beginning to regain her confidence, bought what she believed to be the crude peptide version of the drug, a hormone replacement for insulin.
But it left her with debilitating side effects that persisted after stopping the medication over a week ago.
“If I eat more than one small meal a day I have terrible gastrointestinal problems, I can’t sleep at night due to stomach cramps, and I have horrible sulfur burps that make me embarrassed to leave the house because of the smell and my health.” “The stomach is constantly bloated and gassy,” Francesca told the Times.
Novo Nordisk told the newspaper that it was aware of any website, marketplace or social media post offering illegal or off-label advertising for our medicines.
The spokesman added that over the past year and a half, the company’s counterfeiting surveillance and counterfeiting team has “significantly” increased its efforts to eliminate fake posts about the medicines.
Meanwhile, an MHRA spokeswoman said: “Buying Ozempic or any other medicine from illegal online retailers significantly increases the risk of receiving a product that is either counterfeit or not approved for use in the UK.”
“Purchasing from illegal suppliers means there are no guarantees to ensure the products meet our quality and safety standards, and taking such drugs can put your health at risk.”
As stocks of diabetes drugs like liraglutide and ozempic dwindle due to demand – sparking fears they won’t be replenished for at least another year – pharmacists have been told to prioritize the drugs they have for people with the worst cases of diabetes.