Be vigilant about falsified weight-loss drugs, WHO warns

Semaglutides have seen major gains in popularity for weight-loss purposes

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The general public and professionals should be vigilant about falsified weight-loss medications, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday.

The international public health agency specifically raised the alarm about counterfeits of semaglutide drugs that people frequently use to facilitate weight loss.

Its warning focused on three batches of fake Ozempic that appeared in Brazil, the U.K. and the U.S. late last year. They were not made by Novo Nordisk, the producer of real Ozempic.

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"These falsified products could have harmful effects to people’s health," the WHO said. "If the products don’t have the necessary raw components, falsified medicines can lead to health complications resulting from unmanaged blood glucose levels or weight. In other cases, another undeclared active ingredient may be contained in the injection device, e.g. insulin, leading to an unpredictable range of health risks or complications."

ozempic

The anti-diabetic medication Ozempic (semaglutide), made by Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk. (Joel Saget/AFP via / Getty Images)

WEIGHT LOSS MEDICATION SHORTAGE CREATES MARKET FOR BOGUS DRUGS

The agency said instances of falsified semaglutide have been on the rise globally for two years.

Wegovy shots

Wegovy is an injectable prescription weight-loss medicine that has helped people with obesity. (Michael Siluk/UCG/Universal Images Group via / Getty Images)

That phenomenon has coincided with higher demand for medicines like Ozempic and Wegovy, whose active ingredient is semaglutide. Tirzepatides like Eli Lilly's Mounjaro and Zepbound, have also seen increased popularity.

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In particular, more and more people have been clamoring to get such drugs for weight-loss purposes.

People should only be "buying [semaglutide] medicines with prescriptions from licensed physicians" and staying away from ones from "unfamiliar or unverified sources, such as those that may be found online," according to the WHO.

With the drugs in high demand for weight loss, online scams centered on semaglutide have also become increasingly common.

OZEMPIC, WEGOVY SCAMS SKYROCKET AS DEMAND SURGES FOR EXPENSIVE WEIGHT LOSS DRUGS

McAfee recently found malicious phishing attempts of such a nature from January through April had gone up 183% from the prior three-month period, as previously reported by FOX Business.

Daniella Genovese contributed to this report.

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