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Fake Ozempic and Wegovy jabs being sold on online black market | Tech News

Wegovy to be available in UK

An unlicensed version of the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy is available online without checks – despite the risk of causing health issues (Picture: Getty)

Fake weight loss drugs are being sold on a thriving digital black market that is profiting off the popularity of new treatments for obesity. 

An investigation by the BBC has found that dealers on social media and illicit beauty salons are selling illegal versions of semaglutide, the active ingredient in the prescription drugs Ozempic and Wegovy.

Ozempic is prescribed as a type 2 diabetes medication but has become a weight loss drug among celebrities who have dubbed it ‘the skinny jab’.

Wegovy is specifically marketed as a weight loss drug and was made available in the UK in September 2023 as part of a ‘controlled and limited launch’.

The investigation found unregulated sellers online and in salons in Liverpool and Manchester, adding that doctors have warned the drugs could contain potentially toxic ingredients.

In the UK, people wishing to take a drug containing semaglutide must get a prescription from a doctor after undergoing clinical assessments as well as diet and exercise programmes. 

The drug works by reducing appetite and lowering blood sugar levels.

However, semaglutide is known in some cases to raise the risk of ‘severe’ gastrointestinal problems and heighten the probability of pancreatitis, bowel obstructions and stomach paralysis.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 17: In this photo illustration, boxes of the diabetes drug Ozempic rest on a pharmacy counter on April 17, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Ozempic was originally approved by the FDA to treat people with Type 2 diabetes- who risk serious health consequences without medication. In recent months, there has been a spike in demand for Ozempic, or semaglutide, due to its weight loss benefits, which has led to shortages. Some doctors prescribe Ozempic off-label to treat obesity. (Photo illustration by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Boxes of the diabetes drug Ozempic rest on a pharmacy counter in Los Angeles, California (Picture: Getty)

The criminals selling ‘skinny jabs’ on social media care little for the law, selling unlicensed semaglutide to anyone willing to pay the price – without any health checks or safety assessments.

One woman ended up coughing blood after buying 10mg of the weight loss drug for £200 on Instagram from a man who referred to her as ‘babe’ as he sold her the potentially dangerous drug.

Speaking to BBC investigators, Maddy, 32, said: ‘It was bad. I was throwing up all night, to the point where I was throwing up stomach acid, blood, white foam.’

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Maddy received a WhatsApp video showing her how to administer the drug – and dangerous advice suggesting she take a higher-than-recommended dose.

After a second dose caused further vomiting, she went to hospital and was put on a drip.

‘I can be a bit of a drama queen, but I thought I was dying,’ she said. ‘I was literally crunched over, bawling my eyes out to my mum. I was so angry, as well, because I was like, no-one told me that this was going to be a side effect.’

The BBC tracked down one man who sold semaglutide online, who said that he makes the equivalent of a reporter’s annual salary every week. 

What are the risks of taking weight loss drugs recreationally? 

Taking semaglutide without medical guidance is not recommended.

It can impact the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and cause changes in intestinal health or even pancreatic inflammation (also known as pancreatitis). In the short term, it can also facilitate hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) which, in severe cases, can lead to seizures.

Earlier this year, nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert said: ‘More often than not, these types of products and the way they are marketed prey on people’s vulnerabilities and exacerbate the expectations to look an ‘ideal’ shape or size.

‘Not only do these products discourage healthy eating habits and may potentially cause disordered eating, [but] they’re often purchased online, which may be dangerous as there is a lot less regulation when buying through the internet.’

MORE : Scientists’ warning over ‘severe’ weight-loss jab side effects

MORE : Scientists have made a pill to replace exercise – but don’t hang up the trainers yet

MORE : New diabetes drug that is ‘better’ than Ozempic and Wegovy set for use in UK

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