World Health Organization warns of fake versions of Ozempic

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Fake versions of Ozempic, the injectable diabetes drug many use for weight loss, are springing up around the world. 

“We have reports coming in from 14 countries,” WHO team lead for incidents of substandard and falsified medical products Rutendo Kuwana said. 

The World Health Organization confirms counterfeit semaglutide, the active ingredient in the drug, was found in the U.S., the U.K. and Brazil late last year. 

The group is currently investigating reports in 11 other countries. 

Kuwana wants people to know these fakes could have anything in them.

“In one instance, the semaglutide was replaced with insulin. That’s a very, very dangerous situation,” Kuwana said. 

He says if the color of the drug, the spelling on the label and especially the source is questionable, “One must be suspicious that the product is potentially falsified.”

A spokesperson for Novo Nordisk, the maker of Ozempic, said the company is working with the FDA to crack down on counterfeits.

Some members of Congress say high drug prices are to blame for fueling the black market and want more regulation of drug companies.

“It costs 15 times more, 15 times more, in this country for Ozempic, than it does in other countries, so that’s one of the reasons you have off-market drugs that are not safe,” California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna said. 

Khanna supports a bill that would direct drugmakers to lower prices to be on par with other countries, and if they don’t, the government could approve cheaper, generic versions, regardless of any patents in place.

“Americans shouldn’t pay a dime more than people in other countries for these drugs, including Ozempic,” Khanna said. 

A Novo Nordisk spokesperson said in a statement that 80% of people with insurance that covers the drug pay $25 or less per prescription.

The company’s CEO is expected to testify before a U.S. Senate Committee about drug costs in September. 

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