June 26, 2023: Fake Ozempic Pen in U.S. Pharmacy Contained Insulin, says Novo Nordisk

This week: Novo Nordisk warned that fake Ozempic has been found in the U.S. A man at the center of an HIV drug counterfeiting ring got 15 years. The Justice Department indicted Chinese companies and executives for allegedly selling fentanyl precursors into the U.S. Authorities are still tracking tainted cough syrup in at least 12 countries. Additional stories involved counterfeit pills in 20 states.

National News

Counterfeit Ozempic was found at a U.S. pharmacy. A Florida man was sentenced for leading an HIV drug diversion ring. The Justice Department is prosecuting companies based in China for selling fentanyl precursors.

Share this PSA to warn others about Ozempic counterfeits. 

Ozempic maker Novo Nordisk warned that a fake version of its diabetes drug had been found in the U.S. The injection pen, which contained insulin instead of semaglutide, was reportedly purchased at a retail pharmacy. Ozempic counterfeits have already been reported in 11 countries.

Novo Nordisk also filed suit against medical spas and wellness clinics in New York, Florida, Tennessee and Texas for using Ozempic and Wegovy branding to sell other, non-FDA approved semaglutide injections to their patients.

Miami, Florida resident Lazaro Hernandez received a 15-year prison sentence for running a criminal enterprise that sold illegally-acquired prescription drugs to U.S. pharmacies using forged pedigrees and licensed distributors they had set up themselves. The conspiracy made more than $230 million, and led to HIV patients receiving the wrong medicine. Hernandez is also a central figure in Gilead Sciences’ lawsuit against a network of companies and individuals in 13 states who distributed these diverted drugs. Learn more here.

The Justice Department arrested two executives and unsealed three indictments against China-based companies that allegedly made, sold, and supplied more than 200 kilograms of precursor chemicals for fentanyl production in the U.S.

This news comes at the same time that the Department of Homeland Security updated the public about the Biden administration's efforts to disrupt the fentanyl supply chain, improve intelligence sharing and upgrade scanning equipment at the border.

Wired Magazine reporters surveyed data from Telegram and found that messages related to the sale of unregulated “abortion pills” had spiked since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer. The shift is another example of how responsive the black market is to changes in the legitimate market.

International News

Countries continue to respond to deadly children’s cough syrup. Authorities seized fake cancer drugs in Lebanon, and sexual enhancement products in Singapore.

This children's paracetamol suspension, which Nigerian regulators tested for Liberia, contained toxic ethylene glycol.

The World Health Organization reported that it is working with six more countries that may have contaminated children’s cough syrups in circulation. The medicines, some of which were manufactured in India, killed 300 children in Gambia, India, Indonesia and Uzbekistan in 2022. They have also been reported in Cambodia, Cameroon, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Philippines, Senegal, and Timor Leste.

Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control issued alerts about two additional batches of children’s medicine that contained toxins; an oral paracetamol suspension and a cough syrup, made in Mumbai and Punjab,respectively.

Gambia, which saw at least 70 pediatric deaths from tainted cough syrup, has enacted a regulation requiring that all Indian pharmaceuticals be tested before importation.

Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority announced that it had removed more than 2300 listings advertising illegal health products and investigated 360 packages in an Interpol-led operation focused on disrupting the sale of sexual enhancement products in the Asia-Pacific region.

Lebanon’s Customs Anti-Smuggling Branch confiscated over 100 boxes of cancer medications and more than 250 other drugs from a network of drug traffickers who smuggled them into Lebanon and neighboring countries.

Expansión published an article about COFEPRIS’s efforts to combat Mexico’s growing pharmaceutical black market, which has branched out from expensive specialty drugs to basic supplies like over the counter medicines.


Updates on cases involving counterfeit pills made of fentanyl or benzodiazepines in 11 states, including a fake alprazolam and oxycodone manufacturing operation in Florida.

Read the criminal complaint describing the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations' search of Albanito's house.

Steven Hecke of Fort Wayne, Indiana was sentenced to life plus 25 years in federal prison for distributing large quantities of methamphetamine and fentanyl in both powder and pill form, along with other drugs.

Cass County, Iowa resident Mason Blaine Loudermilk, 19, received a 16-year prison sentence for dealing fentanyl pills that caused several fentanyl poisonings between August 2020 and May 2022.

Michael Edwards of Stow, Ohio was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for selling counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl that killed Anthony Seaman in September 2020.

Cape Coral, Florida resident Brandon Albanito pleaded guilty to possession of fentanyl, counterfeit drugs for sale, and parts used to make counterfeit drugs, and other charges. Agents found a commercial-grade pill press, several hundred counterfeit oxycodone pills that contained fentanyl, approximately 30 pounds of counterfeit alprazolam pills made of clonazolam, and pill dies when they searched his residence in January 2023.

People in Fresno, California; Kansas City, Missouri; Rock Hill, South Carolina; Amarillo and Texarkana, Texas; Waynesboro, Virginia and Campbell County and Cheyenne, Wyoming were also convicted or sentenced in cases involving counterfeit pills.

Two alleged drug dealers in Carrollton, Texas were charged with supplying the fentanyl pills that killed a 15-year-old high school student last week. The victim is the fourth teen to die of a fentanyl overdose in the area since September 2022.

A defendant in Green Bay, Wisconsin is facing charges for providing the counterfeit pills made of fentanyl that killed her boyfriend on Christmas 2022.


Counterfeit pill seizures in 11 states, including larger incidents in Arizona, California, Utah and Indiana.

The Phoenix Police Department announced that they seized more than 500,000 fentanyl pills and three and a half pounds of methamphetamine as they carried out Operation Summer Shield, a one-day crack down on violent crime.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection at California’s San Ysidro port of entry discovered 42 pounds of fentanyl pills in a variety of colors hidden in the dashboard, driver and passenger seats, rear quarter panels, and gas tank of a vehicle entering the United States on June 16. 

Federal agents arrested two men and seized 63,000 fentanyl pills and more than eight pounds of other illicit drugs while searching residence in Magna, Utah.

Law enforcement in Indiana seized 320,000 fentanyl pills and more than 550 pounds of other illicit drugs during the year-long investigation of a drug trafficking organization working in central Indiana.

Fentanyl pills concealed in a vehicle at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, June 2023.

Counterfeit pills were also confiscated in Juneau, Alaska; Johnson County, Arkansas; Atwater, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Bismarck, North Dakota; Lawton and McClain County, Oklahoma; Gresham and Portland, Oregon and Benton, Tennessee.