Fake Ozempic Sellers to Face Criminal Charges in Austria

Fake Ozempic Sellers to Face Criminal Charges in Austria

VIENNA – Austrian prosecutors said they will bring criminal charges against two men accused of selling fake versions of Novo Nordisk’s (NYSE: NVO) diabetes drug Ozempic, resulting in bodily harm in three women.

The defendants had acted as traders and sold 225 bogus injection pens falsely labeled as Ozempic for 205 euros ($222) apiece to a plastic surgeon in the city of Salzburg, the prosecutors’ office in the city of Steyr told Reuters, declining to name the defendants.

Novo has seen overwhelming demand for Ozempic because its weight-loss effect has boosted off-label use. The Danish drugmaker, and its rival Eli Lilly – the maker of weight-loss drug Zepbound, also known as Mounjaro – have been scrambling to boost output.

Fake versions have emerged in several countries with criminals seeking to cash in on the hype. Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued warnings on falsified weight-loss drugs.

Three women who received the fake shots in Austria suffered an injury, the prosecutors’ office added, resulting in indictments of grossly negligent bodily harm and trading in fake drugs against the defendants.

A judge at the Steyr regional court said a first hearing in the case was scheduled for September 16.

She added the defendants were accused of selling insulin in the pens rather than semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic, in September last year and that they faced potentially up to three years in prison.

She said the woman’s symptoms had been temporary.

Austria’s health safety body BASG said last October that several people were hospitalized after using fake versions of Ozempic, the first report of harm to users as a European hunt for counterfeiters widened.

The agency at the time said the victim’s symptoms, including low blood sugar, had been consistent with insulin poisoning. 

The prosecutor’s office and the court declined to say whether it was the same case but added that BASG had been involved in the investigation.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) warned last year about the existence of pens falsely labeled as Ozempic.

Novo had flagged a surge in online offers of counterfeit Ozempic and its weight-loss drug Wegovy, based on the same active ingredient.

The EMA and authorities in Germany and Britain, including prosecutors in southwestern Germany, have been investigating a case where bogus injection pens with German language labels in genuine Ozempic packaging were sold from a wholesaler in Austria to Germany, and from there, on to two British wholesalers.

($1 = 0.9243 euros)

(Source: Reuters)