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WHO Issues Alert on Falsified Diabetes and Weight Loss Medicines

World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a global alert regarding counterfeit versions of Ozempic, which have been increasingly popular as a weight-loss method.

KJ Staff
WHO Issues Alert on Falsified Diabetes and Weight Loss Medicines (Photo Source: Pixabay)
WHO Issues Alert on Falsified Diabetes and Weight Loss Medicines (Photo Source: Pixabay)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a medical product alert concerning falsified semaglutide medicines, widely used to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity in multiple countries. The alert specifically highlights three falsified batches of the semaglutide class of medicines, branded as Ozempic. These counterfeit products were detected in Brazil and the United Kingdom in October 2023, and in the United States in December 2023.

WHO's Global Surveillance and Monitoring System (GSMS) has reported an increase in falsified semaglutide products across all regions since 2022, and this is the first official notice following confirmation of some of these reports.

Semaglutides, including the falsified Ozempic, are prescribed to individuals with type 2 diabetes to help lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events. These medicines are typically injected weekly, though some are available as daily oral tablets. In addition to managing blood sugar, semaglutides are also prescribed for weight loss due to their appetite-suppressing effects.

WHO has noted a rising demand for semaglutides, which has unfortunately been accompanied by an increase in counterfeit reports. These falsified products pose significant health risks, as they may lack essential components or contain undeclared ingredients, such as insulin. Such discrepancies can lead to severe health complications, including unmanaged blood glucose levels or unpredictable reactions from other active ingredients.

Despite their efficacy, semaglutides are not part of WHO-recommended diabetes treatments due to their high cost, which limits their accessibility in resource-limited settings. More affordable treatments that offer similar benefits for blood sugar control and cardiovascular risk are preferred for widespread public health approaches.

The WHO is currently developing a rapid advice guideline on the potential use of GLP-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs), including semaglutides, for treating obesity in adults as part of a comprehensive care model. GLP-1 RAs are a class of medicines that help manage blood sugar levels and support weight loss.

To safeguard against the dangers of falsified medicines, patients are advised to purchase medications with prescriptions from licensed healthcare providers and avoid unverified sources, especially online.

Additionally, patients should carefully check the packaging and expiry dates of their medicines and follow storage instructions, such as refrigerating injectable semaglutides.

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