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Demand for Ozempic, other weight loss drugs fuel global rise in counterfeits

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Overwhelming Demand for Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and other weight loss drugs is fuelling a global rise in counterfeit versions according to law enforcement, and anti-counterfeiting public health officials.

The Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI), an industry-backed organization that considers the manufacturers of these drugs, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lily as members, said it is working with agencies including Interpol, and companies that help identify counterfeit products.

The collaborative plan of these organizations includes opening inquiries into complaints of counterfeit drugs, trolling social media and e-commerce for advertisements and purchase offers; and teaching customs officials how to spot counterfeits.

Novo’s Ozempic is a drug approved to treat diabetes. It contains the active ingredient, semaglutide.

It is used by people who are seeking to lose weight. Ozempic gained popularity in Nigeria on social media when it was revealed that aestheticians and celebrities use it to achieve weight loss.

While it is approved to treat diabetes, it is expected to get a green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat obesity in the coming months.

This medicine along Mounjaro and Wegrovy is in short supply amid a global obesity epidemic and high rates of diabetes.

Jim Mancuso, director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Intellectual Property Rights said,

They believe it could become the worst tide of counterfeit lifestyle medicines since erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra.

Counterfeit Ozempic has already been found in 14 countries, including Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Germany, Egypt, and Russia.

According to a Europol official, Ozempic is the biggest target so far in Europe.

Nigeria’s drug regulatory agency, NAFDAC, has also alerted Nigerians on the circulation of counterfeit Ozempic pens.

Last week, Germany’s federal drug regulator urged pharmacies and drug distributors to be vigilant following the discovery of wholesale batches of counterfeit Ozempic.

Ireland’s Health Products Regulatory Authority has confiscated 233 units of counterfeit semaglutide in 2023 as compared with 32 units in 2022.

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