Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Fake Ozempic is circulating in Europe and Americas, WHO warns

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The World Health Organization warned that fake batches of Novo Nordisk A/S’s hit diabetes drug Ozempic have been circulating amid soaring demand for the medicine, which some patients use to lose weight.

Three falsified batches were identified in Brazil and the UK in October of last year and in the US in December, the WHO said on Thursday. Though the global public health body has been monitoring growing numbers of reports of fake semaglutide, as Ozempic is known generically, since 2022, this is the first time it has issued an official warning notice.

The counterfeit products could harm patients’ health because they don’t contain the correct ingredients, and in some cases they may even contain a different drug “- such as insulin “- which could be dangerous when taken incorrectly, the WHO said. Ozempic is a diabetes treatment; semaglutide is sold for obesity under the brand name Wegovy.

Fake weight-loss drugs are a growing concern as runaway demand for the medicines feeds a ballooning gray market. In the US, regulations allow compounding pharmacies to sell copycat versions of the drugs because they’re in shortage. Novo and its US rival Eli Lilly & Co. have sought to link the compounded medicines with the possibility of outright counterfeits, with Lilly saying on Thursday that some compounded medicines contained a different chemical than the Food and Drug Administration-approved medicine.

Patients should avoid “unfamiliar or unverified sources, such as those that may be found online,” the WHO said.

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