Facebook and TikTok have come under fire for failing to crack down on counterfeit Ozempic vaccines being sold online

I came across various posts on TikTok advertising Ozempic for sale

The social media giant has been criticized for failing to crack down on the promotion and sale of counterfeit semaglutide injections on their platforms, and health experts warn patients’ lives could be at risk.

Demand for injections using active ingredients – sold under the brands Ozempic, Wegovy and Rybelsus – has skyrocketed after being hailed as a “game changer” in the fight against obesity.

Although Ozempic is only licensed in the UK for diabetics, the shot has been offered on an “off-label” basis to people hoping to take advantage of its weight loss properties while Wegovy – to treat obesity – has launched on the NHS. postponed indefinitely.

Now, the soaring demand for drugs and global supply shortages are feared to have been exploited by fraudsters and opportunists on social media sites, including Facebook and TikTok.

I analysis of posts on social media platforms found Ozempic and Wegovy advertised for sale from non-pharmaceutical sources, with other posts claiming to be selling the active ingredient semaglutide in “raw” form.

In one of the TikTok videos seen by Ione user boasted that they had “managed to get hold of two Ozempic 1mg pens” and directed viewers who wanted to buy them to a direct message.

Another video simply features a picture of a medicine box and encourages followers to “enter the box for price and details on how to buy”.

On Facebook, groups where users have sent messages asking where they can get weight loss pens were met with responses directing them to the messaging app Telegram, other online sites, or corresponding via direct messages to arrange payment.

Novo Nordisk, a Danish drug manufacturer, said I that they are aware of an “increase in the illegal sale of counterfeit products online, including semaglutide”.

I came across various posts on TikTok advertising Ozempic for sale

Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacists, has raised concerns about the supply issues affecting Ozempic.

He says I he is concerned about incidents where vendors are making DIY versions of the drug and says he feels social media companies need to do more to tackle this problem.

“We feel this is very dangerous because people don’t know exactly how to do it [administer it] and it could be contaminated and could endanger lives, “he said.

“It’s very concerning to hear that these products are now being sold online and we don’t know if they are being sold from a reputable place.”

In some cases, social media users obtained pens from online pharmacies, but Hannbeck questioned how this could be done given the global supply problems.

He said: “I don’t know where they get this product from and is it from a reputable source, and if they buy from a UK pharmacy online the question is how? Because many pharmacies have difficulty getting this product.”

When asked whether social media companies should introduce signposts to trusted sources like the NHS – similar to efforts used to tackle Covid misinformation during the pandemic – Hannbeck said yes.

He added: “There is so much interest in these products right now that people are desperately trying to get their hands on them and we need to do everything we can to provide information to ensure that people are informed about what they are buying.

“I think what we want to see is these products get to market through pharmacies as soon as possible.”

screenshot of a TikTok post advertising Ozempic
Screenshot of one of several TikTok posts advertising Ozempic

Dr Jay Verma, general practitioner at Shakespeare Health Center in Hayes, west London, and president-elect of general practice at the Royal Society of Medicine, cautions: “Semaglutide is a regulated pharmaceutical product and should only be available from authorized physicians. licensed to prescribe. All drugs have side effects, some more serious than others, and I would not recommend anyone buying drugs like these online.

“Without the right tests, it’s very difficult to tell real drugs from counterfeits – and you don’t know what you’re injecting or where and how it’s made.”

Richard Holt, professor of diabetes and endocrinology at the University of Southampton, warns that anyone who buys drugs claiming to contain prescription ingredients that regulate appetite and blood glucose levels has the potential to have fatal consequences.

He said: “When buying a GLP-1 receptor agonist [medicines such as Ozempic] online from non-medical sellers, there are two separate issues. First, is the drug purchased according to what is written on it? While it is possible to buy genuine drugs online, other unscrupulous companies also manufacture and sell generic drugs illegally, some of which do not contain active compounds.

“Here a person potentially exposes himself to anything; this could be harmless or potentially fatal.”

Professor Holt argues that the failure of social media platforms to address this problem allows opportunists to ignore the safeguards in place to protect patients.

“There is a reason why medicines are not marketed directly to patients in many countries in order to keep patients safe – these online platforms ignore regulations and have the potential to harm people.”

A spokesperson for Novo Nordisk said: “If we become aware of any websites, marketplaces or social media posts that carry out prohibited or off-label promotions for our medicines (e.g. counterfeit or sold without the need for a prescription), we will assess the best course of action. must be taken. which could include efforts to remove it from the internet and investigate it further.

“Patient safety is a top priority for Novo Nordisk, and in the UK we are in close dialogue with all relevant stakeholders and local health authorities, including the MHRA. [Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency]to support patients against counterfeit products.

“As part of this, Novo Nordisk has an ongoing program to further enhance partnerships between social media platforms and the pharmaceutical industry as the sale of pharmaceutical products on social media is illegal and violates community guidelines.

“In addition, any false evidence will be shared with local health agencies in accordance with local regulations, and we support all legal and regulatory requirements for investigations conducted by local health agencies.”

In a statement, Telegram said: “Since its founding, Telegram has actively moderated harmful content on our platform, including the sale of drugs. Telegram moderators use a combination of proactive monitoring of public spaces and receiving user reports to remove the content.”

Under Facebook’s policy, they don’t allow content that attempts to buy, sell, or trade pharmaceutical drugs except when listing vaccine prices in an educational or explicit discussion context or offering delivery when posted by a legitimate healthcare e-commerce business.

Meta, Facebook’s parent company, removes such content when it is discovered.

TikTok tells I that its community guidelines are clear that they do not allow trading of regulated substances on TikTok, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and that they have
remove content and permanently block accounts that violate these guidelines.

He added that they have a dedicated team to keep TikTok safe.

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