Is it a Criminal Offence to Import Ozempic Without A Prescription?

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Weight loss pill

Ozempic is a diabetes drug turned fat loss medication, which has been skyrocketing in popularity.

Supplies for Ozempic in Australia are at an all time low, with many desperate dieters looking to overseas sellers to get their supply.

But is it legal to import Ozempic into Australia?

What Is Ozempic?

Ozempic is the brand name for the medication semaglutide. It is a prescription drug that is used to treat type 2 diabetes, but has recently been prescribed “off label” for weight loss.

Ozempic works by mimicking the action of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) in the body. GLP-1 helps to regulate blood sugar levels by stimulating the release of insulin and reducing the production of glucose in the liver. It also slows down the emptying of the stomach, which can help to control appetite and promote weight loss.

It is administered as a once-weekly injection under the skin (subcutaneous injection).

Since its rise in popularity, Australian pharmacies have been struggling to stock Ozempic,  even for patients utilising it for their diabetes. This has led many consumers to look a websites  based overseas which purport to ship the drug in.

The Laws Regarding Prescription-Only Medications

Semaglutide is currently listed as a Schedule 4 medicine under The Poisons Standard administered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). This classifies the drug as only capable of being sold from a pharmacist on prescription.

In terms of the importation of medicines, the TGA Personal Importation Scheme allows for Schedule 4 medicines to be imported into Australia if:

  • A valid prescription is provided by a medical practitioner; and
  • No more than a 3-month supply of medicine is imported; and
  • The importation is for personal use and not for selling to third parties.

Importing Ozempic without a valid prescription would constitute a ‘prohibited import’ under the Customs Act 1901 (Cth) and carries the risk of serious penalty.

Section 233 of the Customs Act outlines an offence where a person:

  • Smuggles any goods; or
  • Imports any prohibited imports; or
  • Exports any prohibited exports; or
  • Unlawfully conveys or has in his or her possession any smuggled goods or prohibited imports or prohibited exports.

The maximum penalty for importing or dealing with a prohibited import under this section is a fine of up to three times the value of the goods, or up to $275,000 (whichever is greater).

The medication may also constitute a ‘tier 1 good’ under section 233BAA of the Act which applies to non-narcotic drugs intentionally imported contrary to the Customs Act. This offence carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment, or a fine of $275,000 or both.

Be Wary of Scams

Even if you hold a valid prescription to import Ozempic from overseas, it’s worth noting that supply shortages are a global phenomena, and there is a high risk of scams should you purchase goods online.

The TGA recently released a warning that they had identified two products imported into Australia that had been wrongly advertised as semaglutide, but contained other chemicals. There have also been increasing reports of companies failing to deliver the medication to customers who paid for it in full.

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Jarryd Bartle

Jarryd Bartle is an Associate Lecturer in Criminology and Justice Studies at RMIT University and a consultant for the Bridge of Hope Innocence Initiative, which investigates claims of wrongful conviction and advocates for systemic reform to protect against miscarriages of justice.

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