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Health authorities across the globe issue warnings about fake Ozempic

Counterfeit versions of Ozempic, a diabetes medication widely prescribed for weight loss, have become a cause of concern for health regulators worldwide. This fraudulent drug has been found in over a dozen countries, raising alarm not only in the United States but also drawing the attention of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Timothy Mackey, a global health professor at the University of California, San Diego, who specializes in counterfeit drugs, emphasized the popularity of Ozempic and the risks associated with its counterfeit versions. Regulatory bodies worldwide are actively working to curb the circulation of these fake medications due to the vulnerability of people worldwide to such scams.

Recently, WHO’s Member State Mechanism on Substandard and Falsified Medical Products discussed the issue of counterfeit semaglutide products, the active ingredient in Ozempic. Member countries were urged to take necessary measures to address this recognized threat.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported seizing thousands of counterfeit units of the drug. The FDA initiated testing on the seized counterfeit drugs in collaboration with Novo Nordisk, the patent holder of the drug, to determine their composition. Investigations revealed that the accompanying needles in the counterfeit injectable medication were not sterile. Additionally, the labeling, packaging, and prescription information were falsified.

Although no serious injuries related to counterfeit medications have been reported to date, the FDA acknowledged five adverse events, all aligning with known side effects of authentic Ozempic, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

In Europe, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) revealed the discovery of fake Ozempic at wholesalers in the European Union and the United Kingdom. The counterfeit pens, labeled in German, were identified through inactive serial numbers on the packages. Austrian regulatory authorities revealed instances where individuals were hospitalized due to serious side effects, hinting that the fake products contained insulin instead of semaglutide.

The connection between the counterfeit Ozempic in the U.S. supply chain and those found in other countries remains unclear, raising questions regarding their origins and distribution pathways.

Both the FDA and Novo Nordisk declined to provide any further comments beyond their previous statements, citing ongoing investigations into the matter.

Novo Nordisk stated that the seizure of counterfeit drugs occurred outside their authorized supply chain. Meanwhile, the Partnership for Safe Medicines, a nonprofit coalition overseeing supply chain producers and distributors, has been actively monitoring cases involving counterfeit Ozempic and similar weight-loss drugs across multiple nations.

Shabbir Imber Safdar, the executive director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines, highlighted that while these fake products may not be exact replicas, they closely resemble the authentic drug, making it challenging to discern their fraudulent nature. This resemblance complicates efforts to detect and prevent the circulation of these counterfeit medications.

This article was originally published onĀ NBCNews.com

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