The Department of Health is alerting people to the dangers of buying prescription weight loss injections from unregulated sources.
The Department is aware that there has been an increase in demand for so called “weight loss injections” in Northern Ireland which has seen people sourcing medicines from unregulated or unapproved sources including unscrupulous websites, online sellers and local illicit sources.
People are being urged to consider the implications of buying drugs online from unverified websites or dubious sources – there is no way of knowing what you are buying is what you think it is, and this can have serious consequences for your health. The potential risk to public health has been recently highlighted during an investigation by the Department’s Medicines Regulatory Group (MRG), which has established falsified injectable weight loss pens in circulation in Northern Ireland. The investigation remains ongoing and a number of these pens have been removed from circulation.
Primarily approved for the management of diabetes, the medication, containing semaglutide, can also be prescribed legitimately by a healthcare professional to aid weight loss in certain circumstances. Available under different brand names, it is administered via injection of pre-filled pens, which are only legally available by prescription.
Peter Moore, Senior Medicines Enforcement Officer with the Department of Health said: “You may be breaking the law by advertising or unlawfully supplying prescription only medicines outside the legitimate supply chain. I would urge people not to source their prescription medication from unregulated sources. This investigation has confirmed fake medication in circulation, which presents a real risk of adverse health effects. We continue to monitor the marketplace and will take effective action where this is necessary.”
Canice Ward, Head of Medicines Regulatory Group, added: “It is extremely important that people take prescription only medicines after consultation with their GP, pharmacist or other healthcare professional who have access to patient health records and can consider the risks and benefits associated with every medicine. Medicines obtained through unregulated or unapproved sources will often not have been prescribed by a healthcare professional, may not have been subject to the normal safety and quality controls on manufacture and, as such, may not be of the required quality or be of the nature described.
“The risk to the public due to illegal, falsified, or counterfeit medicines is very real. The public can be assured that the Department is committed to and continues to take all possible steps to stop their illegal supply or misuse, and to taking strong action where wrongdoing is identified.”
Any person who suspects a medicine has been falsified should discuss the matter with a healthcare professional such as a pharmacist and report the matter via the Yellow Card reporting system (https://yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk/).
Referrals can also be made to the Department’s Medicines Regulatory Group via email@example.com
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