WHO warns of fake Ozempic

June 21, 2024

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a medical product alert Thursday warning that fake medications used for diabetes and obesity, like Ozempic, have been detected in some countries.

The warning said there were three fake batches of semaglutide, a type of weight loss drug, detected in Brazil, the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland in October 2023. In December 2023, it was detected in the U.S.

WHO also noted it has been monitoring reports of the fake drug since 2022 and the release Thursday was the first official notice after the organization confirmed reports.

“WHO advises healthcare professionals, regulatory authorities and the public [to] be aware of these falsified batches of medicines,” Dr. Yukiko Nakatani, WHO assistant director-general for Access to Medicines and Health Products, said in a statement. “We call on stakeholders to stop any usage of suspicious medicines and report to relevant authorities.”

The particular drug found to be fake has been prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes to lower their blood sugar levels and prescribed for weight loss in some countries as it help to suppress appetite.

The health organization said it’s been observing an increased demand for the medicines, but also the reports of falsification.

If the product doesn’t have the necessary raw components, health complications could occur, experts warned. Other reports have found that an undeclared active ingredient may be inside the injection device and could also lead to complications.

WHO said semaglutide is not part of its recommended treatment for diabetes because it is so costly, making it “unsuitable for a public health approach” and accessible for the wider population.

The officials added that the organization is working on “a rapid advice guideline” around using the drug for obesity treatment.

WHO urged patients who take the drug to only buy medicine with a prescription from a licensed physician and to avoid unfamiliar or unverified sources.

“People should always check packaging and expiry dates of medicines when they buy them, and use the products as prescribed,” the release said.

Medicine company Eli Lilly announced Thursday that it was filing several legal actions against med-spas, wellness centers and other entities that are using unapproved products that they claim to be advertised or designed to look like their genuine Food and Drug Administration approved drug.