Australia: People sent to emergency after Ozempic overdoses

According to data that was received by the media in Australia, patients have been taken to hospital emergency rooms after unintentionally taking a higher dose of Ozempic than what was recommended to them.

For the treatment of type 2 diabetes, the medication semaglutide, which is marketed and sold under the brand name Ozempic in Australia, receives financial support from the pharmaceutical benefits plan.

However, doctors also prescribe it for weight loss “off label” for patients who are living with obesity, which results in a monthly cost of more than $130 for those patients. In most cases, it is given with the use of an injectable pen once each week.

More than 120 calls regarding semaglutide were made to the largest poisons information center in Australia, which is located in the state of New South Wales (NSW). These calls were made in the year leading up to the end of October 2023.

The cause of 83% of these was a mistake with the drug, which could have been anything from an inaccurate dose being taken by the patient to improper administration of the medication or even the medication being taken by the wrong person.

The Victorian Poisons Information Centre informed the Guardian Australia that their service has received 82 calls connected to Ozempic or semaglutide in the 24 months leading up to the end of October 2023.

Because the caller mistakenly administered a greater dose than was prescribed, seven of these calls resulted in the caller being transferred to an emergency department or urgent care center for further monitoring. This was done due to problems or unpleasant effects that resulted from the caller unintentionally delivering a higher dose than was intended.

However, purposeful prescription misuse accounted for 10% of all contacts to the service in Victoria.

“Patients reported to have used friend’s or family member’s medication for the purpose of weight loss, or intentionally used their own prescribed medications at higher doses than prescribed, with the goal of weight loss,” a spokeswoman for Austin Health, which operates the program, said. “Patients reported to have used their own prescribed medications at higher doses than prescribed, with the goal of weight loss.”

Unintentional medication administration errors were the primary cause of the majority of the calls (74%) that were received.

Each Ozempic “pen” includes numerous doses, and patients are only required to take one dose per week.

According to what the spokesman had to say, “it is not uncommon for a patient to accidentally inject the entire contents in the pen,” which can be up to four times the dose that was intended.

In spite of warnings regarding a lack of long-term data surrounding side effects and efficacy, high-profile celebrities and social media influencers promoting Ozempic for weight loss prompted a rise in demand and contributed to an ongoing worldwide shortage of the medicine. This resulted in an ongoing shortage of the drug around the world.

It is anticipated that the continuous supply shortages in Australia will continue throughout the year 2024, and physicians are being recommended to refrain from prescribing the medication to new patients. In the meantime, pharmacists have been instructed to give diabetic patients higher priority for any supply.

According to the findings of a study that was published earlier in 2023 in the Internal Medicine publication, which is the publication of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, an increase in the number of calls made to poison control centers about semaglutide is connected with publicity of the drug as being a weight reduction agent.

The authors of the study came to the conclusion that a significant number of dosing errors “indicates a need for clear dosing advice from prescribers and pharmacists, particularly to patients who may be unfamiliar with injectable dosing devices.”

People all around the world are being forced to seek out illegally obtained counterfeit copies of the medicine semaglutide as a result of a worldwide supply shortfall. In Austria, the use of counterfeit semaglutide has been related to multiple hospitalizations, with patients suffering from extreme adverse effects including seizures. Some of these patients were hospitalized.

According to a spokeswoman for the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which regulates pharmaceuticals in Australia, counterfeit semaglutide items that were trying to enter the country have been seized at the border and “not released to the consumer.”

“The TGA is not aware of any of these reported products entering Australia,” the representative for the TGA stated.

According to the TGA, there have been no complaints of adverse occurrences for Ozempic in Australia that imply a counterfeit product was involved.

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