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A TikTok influencer is being charged with illegally dispensing misbranded Ozempic and other weight loss medications through social media that have caused “life threatening” injuries to buyers. Olena Malik/Getty Images
  • A New York TikTok influencer is being charged with illegally dispensing misbrandedOzempic and other weight loss medications through social media.
  • Buyers of the illegal drugs have faced “life threatening” injuries.
  • Experts tell Healthline that the strong demand for obesity medications for cosmetic reasons is likely fueling black market sales.

A TikTok influencer is facing charges of peddling illicit, adulterated weight loss medications, including Ozempic, through social media.

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, brought charges this month against Isis Navarro Reyes, who is known on Tiktok as Beraly Navarro, after an undercover investigation by the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations.

Reyes allegedly posted dozens of videos online touting weight-loss medications, including Ozempic, Axcion, and Mesotherapy. Interested parties could contact her through her cell phone number to obtain the drugs from her. Reyes would also coach buyers on how to administer injections and dosage.

Some individuals who purchased the drugs from Reyes experienced severe side effects, including infection.

“As alleged, Isis Navarro Reyes used her social media following to sell weight loss drugs unapproved for distribution in the United States. Reyes’s alleged unlawful dispensing of these drugs caused significant, life threatening injuries to some victims and put all of her victims in harm’s way,” said Williams in a statement.

Reyes is still awaiting her day in court; the charges are allegations.

Selling misbranded and adulterated obesity medication

According to the federal complaint, Reyes is facing several charges, including smuggling, “receipt of misbranded drugs in interstate commerce,” and “dispensing of a misbranded drug.”

Reyes is alleged to have obtained the drugs from Central and South America.

“Misbranded” is a technical definition used by the FDA to indicate a failure to meet federal labeling requirements. Proper labeling requires the use of the English language, clear instructions, and warnings on the box.

Drugs can also be labeled as misbranded if they have been manufactured or processed in a country or facility not registered with the FDA.

The complaint also warns that the drugs could be adulterated, which means they could contain harmful substances or were manufactured under insanitary conditions. A misbranded or adulterated drug is not necessarily counterfeit, but it does not meet the standards for approval in the United States.

In fact, the DA’s press release states that “there is no evidence that the Ozempic that Reyes sold is not genuine.”

“There’s just a lot of nuances into what adulterated can mean. You can have package alteration, which means you don’t follow the packaging requirements of these products. You can have adulteration of the product itself, which sometimes could be a sterilization question or it could be an active drug question,” Joseph Lambson, PharmD, Director of the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center, and an Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy, told Healthline.

None of the drugs sold by Reyes have been approved for sale in the US by the FDA. She is also facing charges of dispensing medication without a license.

“Life-threatening injuries” caused to some buyers

The complaint contains the account of “Victim-1,” who claims to have experienced a severe infection after administering nearly thirty injections of Mesofrance purchased from Reyes.

On July 13, 2023, Victim-1 began to develop lesions that were subsequently diagnosed as a mycobacterium abscessus infection. The infection is believed to have been caused by contamination of the medical products purchased from Reyes.

Mycobacterium abscessus is a rapidly growing species of bacteria that can cause skin and lung infections; it is often resistant to antibiotics.

“Have these products been manufactured in a sterile environment so that no bacteria or other types of infectious pathogens get into them? That’s where the big concern comes in with these adulterated products, which aren’t coming through pharmacies but would be coming through, perhaps, the internet or other black market areas,” said Lambson.

Other complications may occur from the use of illegally purchased drugs as well.

In 2023, Lambson co-authored a report in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association on the rise of semaglutide overdoses related to compounded semaglutide, which are not verified for safety or quality by the FDA.

The report highlights cases of individuals who experienced severe side effects, including headache, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain, after accidentally administering far more than the recommended dose. In one case, a 50-year-old man administered 10 times the dose he was supposed to take.

Caroline Apovian, MD, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the co-director of the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told Healthline that she strongly discourages anyone from seeking out compounded semaglutide products.

“Absolutely not. The FDA does not protect you,” she said.

Learn more about how to get GLP-1 medications from vetted and trusted online sources here:

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  • Where to Buy Mounjaro (Tirzepatide) Online
  • How to Get Ozempic: Everything You Need to Know
  • Where to Buy Ozempic Online
  • How to Get Wegovy for Weight Loss In Person and Online
  • How to Get a Wegovy Prescription Online
  • How to Get Zepbound: What We Know So Far
  • Where to Buy Zepbound Online
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What to know about buying weight loss drugs on social media

The effectiveness of GLP-1 medications like Ozempic, combined with their popularity among high-profile celebrities, has created a pop culture whirlwind for obesity doctors like Apovian.

“This demand is, for the most part, due to cosmetic reasons: trying to desperately lose 20 pounds. As long as Hollywood starlets and Elon Musk are out there saying they took Wegovy, people will want these medications,” she said.

Social media, she says, has just made things more confusing.

That’s a point that Lambson wholeheartedly concurs with. The average person may not know whether or not purchasing a weight loss drug from someone on social media is even illegal.

“That’s the complexity of all of this,” he said.

“There’s a huge push for telehealth and increasing patient access to medications that are important to them. So if it’s a medical professional who’s licensed in that state to provide care and to provide prescriptions it could potentially be a very legal process,” he said.

“Covid and telemedicine and Zoom have just made everything a little more difficult to navigate,” said Apovian.

“Before, you went to the doctor’s office, right? You get your medication, and you’re legitimate. Now you’ve got a physician’s assistant or a nurse practitioner remotely signing off through a telemedicine program or a med spa,” she said.

The bottom line

Isis Navarro Reyes, a New York-based Tiktoker, is being charged with selling “misbranded, adulterated” obesity medications, including Ozempic, through social media.

The illicit medications have already caused a severe infection in at least one individual connected to Reyes.

Experts tell Healthline that social media, telehealth, and celebrity endorsement of obesity medications have created a whirlwind of demand, which is manifesting in black market sales.