The World Health Organization (WHO) has posted alerts about counterfeit medicines that allegedly contain the ingredient used in Novo Nordisk’s (NOVOb.CO) Ozempic diabetes drug and Wegovy’s obesity treatment. The demand for Ozempic, Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro, and other GLP-1 drugs has increased due to their weight loss advantages, leading to a rise in fake products in the global market.

Novo Nordisk promotes its products in around 170 countries and employs roughly 66,000 people across 80 nations.

The WHO alert refers to three batches of fake semaglutide that were found in Brazil and the UK in October 2023, and in the United States in December 2023. Currently, semaglutide is not recommended as a WHO treatment for diabetes due to its high cost, but the agency contends that it is developing a rapid advice guideline on the use of GLP-1 drugs for the treatment of obesity as part of a more inclusive model of care.

Counterfeit drugs could be dangerous, as they may lack some of the raw inputs required, potentially leading to the onset of related diseases due to unchecked glucose or weight. This was the first formal alert that the company issued on Thursday when it authenticated some of the reports. The agency also pointed out several measures that patients using these products can take. For instance, they should ensure they buy medicines prescribed by qualified physicians only and refrain from buying medicines from unknown sources, such as online vendors.

Lilly and Novo have also sued multiple parties to prevent them from offering products labeled as containing the active substances tirzepatide and semaglutide found in Lilly’s popular diabetes and weight-loss medication, Ozempic. Eli Lilly stated that it has joined six other legal actions to sue medical spas and wellness centers for offering products purportedly containing tirzepatide.

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