WHO Warns Against Fake Diabetes and Weight Loss Drugs Sold Online

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The WHO has issued a warning against using counterfeit versions of high-demand diabetes and weight loss drugs that are being sold and advertised online, emphasizing the risks associated with these dangerous alternatives.

The World Health Organization issued a warning on Thursday regarding falsified versions of popular diabetes and weight loss drugs. Counterfeit medications claiming to mimic the effects of semaglutides, like Novo Nordisk's Ozempic, have surfaced in multiple countries.

US pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly also expressed concern in an open letter about the sale of fake or compounded versions of tirzepatide, the active ingredient in their Mounjaro and Zepbound drugs.

Yukiko Nakatani, WHO's assistant director-general for essential medicines and health products, urged healthcare professionals, regulatory authorities, and the public to be vigilant about these falsified drug batches.

"We call on stakeholders to cease using suspicious medications and report any findings to relevant authorities," she emphasized.

The UN agency noted an increase in reports of counterfeit Novo Nordisk products since 2022 and confirmed the discovery of three counterfeit batches between October and December 2023 in Brazil, the UK, and the US.

Novo Nordisk manufactures Ozempic for diabetes management and Wegovy for weight loss, both of which contain semaglutides. Originally intended for type 2 diabetes management, semaglutides also suppress appetite and are used in some regions to combat obesity.

Despite their efficacy, the drugs have become prohibitively expensive for many individuals due to high demand and limited availability. As a result, WHO does not endorse them as a universal treatment for diabetes, citing more affordable alternatives.

The organization cautioned that counterfeit versions may contain undisclosed ingredients and pose unpredictable health risks.