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Sydney home raided after Ozempic scam


Michelle Wisbey


5/04/2024 3:10:08 PM

The TGA is urging GPs ‘exercise deep caution’ after doctors were faxed ads promoting allegedly illegally compounded semaglutide.

Women holding diabetic pen.
The TGA says it does not know when Ozempic will be available in sufficient quantities, as demand continues to rise.

Several items have been seized from a Sydney residence as Australia’s medicine watchdog ramps up its crackdown on compounded semaglutide.
 
Last month, Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) officers executed a search warrant on the home, linked to an individual suspected of being involved in the manufacture and sale of the drug, sold as Ozempic.
 
The seized items will now be subject to further analysis and examination.
 
It comes as Australian doctors are being sent faxes and emails promoting these drugs, with the TGA saying it is also aware of several patients suffering adverse events from the medication after it was mailed to them.
 
Department of Health and Aged Care Deputy Secretary Professor Anthony Lawler said the matter ‘represented a serious breach of trust’ and had a dire warning for GPs.
 
‘Not only have health professionals been duped into believing this was a legitimate pharmacy, but they have then referred their patients to have their prescriptions filled,’ he said.
 
‘Clinical judgement should be used in these cases, recognising that there may be elevated clinical risk for patients where medicines are not assessed by the TGA for safety, quality, and efficacy.
 
‘I would also recommend health practitioners to exercise deep caution when receiving unsolicited advertisements, particularly by fax, and particularly when the source of these advertisements is unknown.’
 
The raid is part of an ongoing TGA investigation into the alleged unlawful manufacture, supply, and export of therapeutic goods, including prescription-only medicines.
 
The body issued a stark warning to consumers to exercise extreme caution when purchasing medicines from unknown websites.
 
It also warned against using compounded semaglutide offered or issued without a prescription, or where the origins of its manufacture cannot be determined.
 
‘The TGA will continue to dedicate resources to investigate this matter and take appropriate enforcement action against anyone found to have breached the law,’ Professor Lawler said.
 
The raid comes after a Four Corners investigation this week revealed replica Ozempic is being ordered without a script and over text by consumers, before arriving at post offices in a plain brown parcel.
 
It discovered GPs are being ‘bombarded’ with the advertisements through email and fax, as semaglutide popularity shows no sign of slowing down.
 
Dr Gary Deed, Chair of RACGP Specific Interests Diabetes, told newsGP unlawful manufacturing of compounded semaglutide is ‘taking advantage of people’s demands for a high-cost weight management drug’.
 
‘The model of medication supply through advertised services is a model of care that is prone to errors from manufacture, to transport safety, and patient education, that does not support high-quality primary patient management,’ he said.
 
‘It is about accountability and trust that the patient is being supported, and checks and balances are in place.’
 
Last week’s TGA raid comes after semaglutide, peptides, and human growth hormones were seized from a Melbourne pharmacy in March, with the TGA alleging the medications were unlawfully manufactured
 
The strong worldwide demand for Ozempic for weight loss continues to create severe shortages and copycats.
 
The TGA says ‘it is not known when the medicine will be available in sufficient quantities’ to meet this demand, with intermittent supply of all strengths of Ozempic expected throughout 2024.
 
It is also warning GPs not to initiate new patients on the drug unless there are no suitable alternatives or there is a compelling clinical reason to do so.
 
Dr Deed said GPs must develop a network of trusted pharmacies and communicate actively with them to ensure patient safety.
 
‘Yes, Ozempic is listed for diabetes related management, but the parent drug has a TGA listing in different dose forms for obesity management,’ he said.
 
‘Thus, there are somewhat overlapping but divergent groups seeking access, and supply problems may persist for some time, so people with diabetes may still struggle with securing ongoing supply – not a good outcome. 
 
‘It is a reminder that when utilising medications off-label, be knowledgeable, inform patients, and seek and record consent, reduce your own and patient risks by utilising known and trusted pharmacies to support your patients.’
 
The TGA has requested that GPs report any illegal or questionable practices or suspected non-compliant advertising to its Product Investigation Section via HPRG.Investigations@health.gov.au.
 
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