WHO issues global counterfeit Ozempic alert

The World Health Organization (WHO has issued another alert about falsified batches of the diabetes drug Ozempic – which has become a sought-after way to lose weight – after receiving reports they have been found in Europe and the Americas.

The latest warning comes after three fake batches of the Novo Nordisk product were intercepted in Brazil, the UK and the US in the last few months.

There have been a number of other alerts issued by other regulatory authorities around the world since 2022, not long after the weight-reducing properties of the active ingredient in Ozempic and Novo Nordisk’s obesity therapy Wegovy were established.

However, this is the first time that the WHO has issued an official alert after confirming some of the reports. The FDA in the US, the EMA in Europe and Australia’s TGA have all put out warnings in the last year 12 months.

According to Novo Nordisk, one of the batches has a number (LP6F832) that has not been used for Ozempic, while the batch number of a second is genuine but the product is falsified. The third uses a combination of batch number NAR0074 with serial number 430834149057 that does not correspond to its manufacturing records.

“WHO advises healthcare professionals, regulatory authorities and the public be aware of these falsified batches of medicines,” said Dr Yukiko Nakatani, WHO Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, in a statement.

“We call on stakeholders to stop any usage of suspicious medicines and report to relevant authorities,” she added.

WHO said it has seen increased demand for Ozempic and other medicines based on GLP-1 agonists as well as reports of falsified products that could have harmful effects on people’s health. Regulators in the UK and Austria said last year they had encountered a small number of incidents in which patients taking the knock-offs were admitted with side effects such as low blood sugar and seizures.

“To protect themselves from falsified medicines and their harmful effects, patients who are using these products can take actions such as buying medicines with prescriptions from licensed physicians and avoid buying medicines from unfamiliar or unverified sources, such as those that may be found online,” it added.

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

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