Poison Center Calls Spike over Weight-Loss, Diabetes Injections

2 min read

Dec. 14, 2023 -- Injectable medicines for diabetes and weight loss have brought a sharp rise in the number of calls to poison control centers across the country, CNN reports.

Some people have been hospitalized with nausea, vomiting and stomach pain. They are typically treated with intravenous fluids and anti-nausea medicine.

America’s Poison Centers received almost 3,000 calls about semaglutide from January through November, CNN says. That’s an increase of more than 15-fold since 2019. In almost all the cases, 94%, the medication was the only one involved.

The FDA approved semaglutide in 2017 and it is sold as Ozempic for diabetes and as Wegovy for weight loss. It can cause stomach and bowel problems. The medicine has been in short supply since last year, and some pharmacies make compounded versions that are often different from the patented drug, CNN said.

Most calls involved self-dosing errors, Kait Brown, the poison center association, told CNN. 

“Oftentimes, it’s a person who maybe accidentally took a double dose or took the wrong dose,” Brown said.

Name-brand drugs come in prefilled pens which patients dial to the correct dose and click to inject. But the compounded versions usually come in multidose glass vials, with patients drawing doses into syringes. It’s easier to make mistakes this way.

One call to a poison center was from a woman who mistakenly took 1 milliliter instead of 0.1 milliliter as her first dose for weight loss. That’s more than 10 times the recommended dose.

“We were getting reports of people giving themselves doses we had never heard of before,” Joseph Lambson, director of the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center, said.