Online Black Market Thrives on Hyped Weight Loss Injections

credit: bbc

London (Parliament Politics Maganize) – Last year, the demand for Ozempic, initially a prescribed medication for type 2 diabetes, surged following its celebrity-backed reputation as a clandestine Hollywood weight loss drug, dubbed the “skinny jab.” The drug functions by reducing blood-sugar levels and slowing down the digestion process.

The unprecedented popularity of Ozempic prompted an increase in unauthorized prescriptions for weight loss, causing global supply challenges and a shortage for diabetes patients all over the UK. 

Online Black Market Surge: Weight Loss Injection Hype

As pharmacies nationwide struggled to procure the medication, an illicit online black market emerged, offering semaglutide “diet kits.” Physicians emphasize the hazards associated with obtaining such drugs from unregulated sources, emphasizing the potential inclusion of toxic ingredients.

Arriving via mail, these packages typically include needles and two vials: one holding a white powder and the other containing a liquid. The drug requires the two components to be mixed before injection. This is what arrived in Maddy’s mailbox after she sought a “quick fix” on Instagram to facilitate weight loss before an upcoming event that was about to be held. 

Eradicating Illicit Online Presence

Mr. Parke is just one among numerous unauthorized vendors promoting semaglutide through social media channels. In an effort to unveil the composition of these drugs, the BBC procured unlicensed semaglutide from various sellers and subjected them to laboratory testing.

The findings revealed inconsistencies in the content of each sample. While the majority of the products did contain semaglutide, vials acquired from two distinct sellers lacked any trace of semaglutide, and almost all, including the one obtained from the Lip King, failed to contain the complete dosage for which payment was made.

Ozempic is exclusively available on the NHS for individuals with type 2 diabetes. Wegovy, another semaglutide drug prescribed for obesity, is set to be accessible on the NHS for individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 35, and in certain cases, for those with a BMI of 30 along with a weight-related health concern.

Undercover Investigation: Inconsistencies in Semaglutide Products

In accordance with UK law, selling semaglutide as a medicinal product without a prescription is illegal. The pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk holds the exclusive approval to sell and market semaglutide, branded as Ozempic and Wegovy, in the UK. However, it is currently grappling with the challenge of counterfeit online sales.

The company states that it is collaborating with a third party to actively identify and eliminate websites, advertisements, or social media accounts engaged in the sale of counterfeit semaglutide. It is conducting thorough investigations into copyright infringement, criminal networks, and sellers unlawfully diverting their products.

Despite these efforts, the media has uncovered instances where sellers, once shut down, often reemerge under a new name the next day. Online sellers attempt to circumvent legal restrictions by labeling their products as “not fit for human consumption” or “for research purposes only.”

Gerard Hanratty, a public law expert, highlights that merely placing such disclaimers on a label does not automatically render the product legal or compliant with regulations. To be valid, sellers would need to substantiate that they are supplying the product for research purposes and not for human consumption.

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Salon Promotion of Unauthorized Sales

A documentary, “The Skinny Jab Uncovered,” revealed the promotion of unapproved versions of the drug in beauty salons across British high streets. Undercover investigators visited four salons in Manchester and Liverpool, where they received unsafe advice regarding the mixing and dosages of the drug.

At one salon, a reporter was advised, “If you have too much, you just wouldn’t want to eat anything, and you might feel sick. It’s not going to be dangerous.”

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has acknowledged incidents of individuals being hospitalized after using counterfeit Ozempic pens, which have become prevalent in the market, with over 300 seized since January.

Professor Barbara McGowan, a consultant endocrinologist involved in a Novo Nordisk-funded study that tested semaglutide for obesity treatment, emphasizes that licensed medications such as Ozempic and Wegovy undergo rigorous quality controls before receiving approval for use. She cautions that individuals procuring semaglutide from sources outside the legal supply chain may be injecting substances of unknown and potentially hazardous nature.

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.