Blog Surge in Poison Control Calls Linked to Popular Weight Loss Medication.

Surge in Poison Control Calls Linked to Popular Weight Loss Medication.

The increase in calls has been steep, with nearly 3,000 reported cases from January through November, marking a more than 15-fold rise since 2019, according to the America’s Poison Centers (Source: CNN Health).

Semaglutide is sold under the brand names Ozempic for diabetes and Wegovy for weight loss. The surge in calls is mainly attributed to dosing errors, with individuals reporting accidental overdoses, such as taking a double dose or the wrong dose.

In 94% of these calls, semaglutide was the sole substance reported. The symptoms reported in these cases included severe nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Some individuals required hospitalization, but their conditions generally improved after receiving anti-nausea medications and intravenous fluids.

Semaglutide was FDA-approved in 2017, and its popularity surged, particularly for weight loss, following endorsements by celebrities on social media in 2022.

However, this popularity led to a shortage in supply, prompting some pharmacies to produce compounded versions. Compounded semaglutide can differ from the patented drug, often containing different salts like semaglutide sodium and semaglutide acetate.

The FDA has emphasized that these compounded versions lack the safety and efficacy testing that the approved drug undergoes and has warned against their usage.

Despite warnings, compounded versions remain popular, primarily due to potential cost savings, especially when insurance doesn’t cover the treatment.

In response, the FDA has sent warnings to online sellers and pursued legal action against unauthorized sellers.

Novo Nordisk, the drugmaker, has filed lawsuits against several medical spas, clinics, and weight loss centers for selling unauthorized versions of semaglutide.

Individuals sometimes misunderstand the dosing instructions, leading to accidental overdoses. For example, a caller reported dialing the pen device all the way up, inadvertently administering a month’s worth of doses at once.

This increase in semaglutide-related poison control calls underscores the importance of accurate dosing and proper usage education, emphasizing the need for healthcare providers to communicate dosage instructions clearly to patients to avoid unintentional overdoses.

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