HealthGlobal alert: A counterfeit weight-loss drug jeopardizes public health

Global alert: A counterfeit weight-loss drug jeopardizes public health

There are more and more counterfeit Ozempic drugs appearing on the market.
There are more and more counterfeit Ozempic drugs appearing on the market.
Images source: © Getty Images | Bloomberg
Malwina Witkowska

21 June 2024 14:21

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a global warning regarding counterfeit Ozempic medication. Although initially intended for treating type 2 diabetes, it has gained popularity as a weight-loss aid. The WHO recommends avoiding purchasing medications from unreliable sources, such as the Internet.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a global warning regarding Ozempic medication. It has gained popularity as a weight-loss aid despite its primary purpose of treating type 2 diabetes. Increasingly, counterfeit versions of this medication are appearing on the market.

The WHO stated that fake medications may pose a severe health risk. The organization recommends purchasing medications only from recognised sources, such as doctors and pharmacies, rather than through the Internet.

Diabetes medication helps with weight loss

The active ingredient in Ozempic, semaglutide, is primarily intended to control blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. However, besides regulating glucose levels, a weekly injection also signals the brain that the body is full, which may help with weight reduction by decreasing appetite. As a result, the medication has become a popular choice for people looking to lose weight.

Information provided by the BBC indicates that the demand for Ozempic as a weight-loss aid has led to shortages among people who genuinely need it for diabetes treatment. Moreover, a market for counterfeit drugs has emerged, posing a severe public health risk.

The WHO has been monitoring the growing number of reports concerning counterfeit Ozempic worldwide since 2022. Authorities in the United Kingdom, USA, and Brazil have already intervened, seizing fake batches of the drug that could have threatened consumers' health.

Counterfeit Ozempic poses health risks

The World Health Organization warned that some counterfeit Ozempic injections may contain no semaglutide at all. Semaglutide is the active ingredient in the medication crucial for controlling type 2 diabetes. Other counterfeit products may contain different ingredients, such as insulin, which could lead to unpredictable health effects.

"[We advise] healthcare professionals, regulatory authorities and the public be aware of these falsified batches of medicines," said Dr Yukiko Nakatani, the WHO's Deputy Director-General for Essential Medicines and Health Products, as quoted by the BBC.

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