Here's How to Spot Fake Ozempic

WHO warns of counterfeit drugs hitting the US market
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2024 4:05 PM CDT
Here's How to Spot Fake Ozempic
This photo combo provided by the FDA shows an authentic Ozempic needle, left, and a counterfeit needle, right.   (FDA via AP)

The World Health Organization has issued a global alert about counterfeit batches of Ozempic turning up in the US and abroad. Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic, treats type 2 diabetes by helping control blood sugar levels, but it also makes people feel full with less food, making it a sought-after weight-loss medication for people without diabetes. That demand has outpaced supply and, in turn, fueled a market for counterfeit drugs, reports
Reuters. The WHO said it received reports of fake Ozempic around the world beginning in 2022 and seized batches in the UK and Brazil in October and in the US in December. The injection pens had authentic Ozempic packaging but phony labels, per Quartz. See a comparison in the photos with this story.

The fake drugs may be ineffective and could pose "serious risks to health because of its subcutaneous injection administration that could be life-threatening," the WHO said. Some pens may not contain semaglutide but other drugs, including insulin, the organization warned. It added the drugs were "supplied in the regulated supply chain," raising questions about how they got to market. The drugs seized in the UK had come from legitimate suppliers in Austria and Germany, per the BBC. In a warning about fake drugs in the US last year, Ozempic maker Novo Nordisk described "an adverse reaction" to a counterfeit Ozempic pen containing insulin glargine, which had been purchased at a retail pharmacy.

The WHO advised people to source Ozempic only through reputable sources, like licensed physicians, rather than online and on social media. "Buying semaglutide from illegally trading online suppliers significantly increases the risk of getting a product which is either falsified or not licensed for use in the UK," said Dr. Alison Cave, chief safety officer at the UK government's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, per the BBC. Eli Lilly has also been warning about counterfeit versions of tirzepatide, the active ingredient in Mounjaro, Zepbound, and other GLP-1 drugs, per the AP and Reuters. The company says it does not provide the drug to online retailers. (More Ozempic stories.)

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