WHO Warns of Health Risks from Fake Diabetes and Weight Loss Drugs

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a medical product alert concerning falsified semaglutides, medicines used to treat Type 2 diabetes and obesity. This alert pertains to three falsified batches of the brand Ozempic, detected in Brazil and the United Kingdom in October 2023, and in the United States in December 2023.

The WHO's Global Surveillance and Monitoring System (GSMS) has been tracking an increase in reports of falsified semaglutide products globally since 2022, marking this as the first official notice following the confirmation of these reports.

"WHO advises healthcare professionals, regulatory authorities, and the public to be aware of these falsified batches of medicines," said Dr Yukiko Nakatani, WHO Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines and Health Products. "We call on stakeholders to stop any usage of suspicious medicines and report them to relevant authorities."

Semaglutides, including Ozempic, are prescribed to lower blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.

They are available as weekly injections or as daily oral tablets and are increasingly prescribed for weight loss due to their appetite-suppressing effects. However, the rising demand for these medicines has led to increased reports of falsification, posing health risks.

Falsified semaglutide products may lack necessary active ingredients, leading to unmanaged blood glucose levels or weight issues. In some cases, these products may contain undeclared active ingredients, such as insulin, causing unpredictable health risks.

Semaglutides are not part of WHO-recommended treatments for diabetes management due to their high cost, which limits their feasibility for widespread use in resource-limited settings. More affordable treatments with similar effects on blood sugar and cardiovascular risk are available.

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