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Monday, July 15, 2024

WHO issues global alert on ‘counterfeit’ weight loss and diabetes drugs

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In some countries, counterfeit medications for weight loss and diabetes have been detected, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned in a statement this Thursday.

The counterfeit drug is semaglutide, a type used to treat type two diabetes and obesity.

According to the WHO, three fake batches of Ozempic brand medicines were detected in the United Kingdom and Brazil in October 2023 and in the United States in December 2023.

The WHO said fake medicines could harm people’s health and advised people to buy medicines only with “prescriptions from authorized doctors and avoid purchasing them from unverified sources, such as those that can be found online.”

Semaglutides, increase in counterfeiting.

The WHO explained that semaglutides, including the specific brand name product that has been counterfeited, are prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes to lower their blood sugar levels.

According to the WHO, most semaglutide products should be injected under the skin weekly, but they are also available in tablet form taken by mouth daily.

He noted that in some countries weight loss medications are prescribed because they suppress appetite and lower blood sugar levels.

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“WHO has observed increased demand for these medicines, as well as reports of counterfeits. These counterfeit products could have harmful effects on people’s health; If products do not have the necessary basic components, counterfeit medicines can cause health complications resulting from uncontrolled blood glucose levels or weight,” the WHO said.

“In other cases, the injection device may contain another undeclared active ingredient, for example insulin, leading to an unpredictable range of health risks or complications.”

In the statement, WHO Assistant Director-General for Essential Medicines and Health Products, Yukiko Nakatani, advised healthcare professionals, regulatory authorities and the public to take note of these counterfeit batches of medicines.

“We call on interested parties to stop using suspicious medicines and report to the relevant authorities,” Ms Nakatani was quoted as saying.

Not recommended by WHO

The world body also clarified that semaglutides are not part of the treatments recommended by the WHO for the control of diabetes due to their current high cost.

He said the cost barrier makes these products unsuitable for a public health approach, adding that there are more affordable treatments available for diabetes, with similar effects to those of semaglutides on blood sugar and cardiovascular risk.

“WHO is currently working on a rapid advisory guideline on the possible use of GLP-1 RAs, including semaglutides, for the treatment of obesity in adults and as part of a more comprehensive care model,” he said.

“The term GLP-1 RA stands for glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonists, which includes semaglutide, for a class of medications used in the treatment of diabetes to lower blood sugar and promote weight loss.”

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