Poison Control Center Reports Surge in Accidental Overdoses of Semaglutide

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Weight-loss drugs have skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years, and the U.S. Poison Control Center reports a similar rise in calls related to these drugs, as accidental overdoses of semaglutide have exploded since their introduction to the market. From 196 calls in 2019 to a stunning 3,000 from January to November of 2023, the flood of accidental overdoses seem to stem from compound versions of the weight-loss drug.

While the two FDA-approved versions of semaglutide (Ozempic and Wegovy) provide their prescription in pre-loaded pens to prevent dosing errors, compound versions are often left for the patient to fill their own dose, which can lead to errors. The director of the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center, Joseph Lambson, MD documented three cases of such calls to poison control in his state this year, with two patients administering more than 10 times their intended dosage.

According to Lambson’s report, one patient received only a vial and syringes, with no pharmacist counseling on how to administer the drug. “One patient reported dosing in milliliters and units rather than in milligrams,” the report states.

What to Know About Compound Semaglutide

Recognizing the popularity of Ozempic and Wegovy, weight-loss medications have started to pop up all over the place, and they’re not all created equal. The FDA has already given a statement highlighting the issues with compound semaglutide, or combining the active ingredient with another drug. These formulations aren’t FDA-approved, and in some cases, aren’t even the same active ingredient, but a salt form of semiglutide, which have not been shown to be safe and effective.

New York endocrinologist Caroline Messer, MD explains that compound versions of semaglutide carry risk. “There is no way to guarantee the safety, efficacy, or potency of these formulations,” Dr. Messer explains.

You can learn more about compound semaglutide here.

Poison Control Calls

According to CNN’s reporting, the rise in calls to poison control centers has taken place all across the country, with the Missouri Poison Control Center seeing a jump from 28 calls in 2022, to 94 calls before the end of October of this year. Also of note is the age range of these callers, as many calls to poison control centers have to do with children accidentally ingesting something, rather than adults.

Additionally, The New York Poison Control center reported three hospitalizations related to semaglutide at this year’s 2023 ACMT Annual Scientific Meeting Abstracts in San Diego. These cases were notably not regarding compound versions, but patients who misunderstood the injection pen that comes with the prescription. One patient had injected 20 times more than his recommended dose. Another received a semaglutide pen online and injected the entire month’s worth of contents.

These patients were treated with IVF and antiemetics and released.

Signs of Semaglutide Overdose

According to the Missouri Poison Control Center, the signs of semaglutide overdose include:

  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Feeling shaky or jittery
  • Sweating, chills, and clamminess
  • Irritability or impatience
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue 
  • Nausea and or vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Passing out
  • Seizures 

If you think you have overdosed on semaglutide, call you local poison control center or the national hotline: 1-800-222-1222.

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