WHO warns of harmful fake Ozempic

WHO reported that counterfeit batches of Ozempic were found in Brazil and the United Kingdom in October 2023 and in the United States in December 2023.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning about counterfeit versions of Novo Nordisk's type 2 diabetes drug Ozempic (semaglutide). Due to the high demand for Ozempic, Wegovy (another semaglutide product for weight loss) and other similar drugs such as Eli Lilly's Mounjaro (tirzepatide), a worldwide shortage has led to the emergence of counterfeit products.

WHO reported that counterfeit batches of Ozempic were found in Brazil and the UK in October 2023 and in the US in December 2023. This is the first official notice in relation to counterfeits, but since 2022 there have been increasing reports of counterfeit semaglutide products globally. These counterfeit products can be harmful, potentially causing health complications from improper ingredients and undeclared additional active ingredients such as insulin. WHO advises patients to avoid purchasing Semaglutide from unverified sources, such as some online websites. Earlier this year, the US Food and Drug Administration warned Synthetix and US Chem Labs of selling unapproved versions of GLP-1 therapies online.

WHO Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines and Health Products Dr Yukiko Nakatani urged health professionals, regulators and the public to be aware of these counterfeit batches and report any suspicious medicines to the relevant authorities.

Although it does not recommend the use of semaglutide for the treatment of diabetes due to its high cost, WHO is developing guidelines for its potential use in the treatment of obesity as part of a comprehensive care model. In 2023, Ozempic generates about $14 billion in revenue, accounting for 41% of Novo Nordisk's total sales. The company increased the price of the drug earlier this year, with a four-week supply now costing $969.

Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly are taking legal action against unapproved marketers. On the day of the WHO warning, Eli Lilly announced legal action against medical spas, wellness centers, and clinics selling products that allegedly contain the cosmetic weight-loss drug tirzepathide. Novo Nordisk is leading 12 lawsuits, having settled two in Florida earlier this year. | BGNES