Weight Loss Drug Ozempic Faces Fakes, Overdoses

Just in time for holiday gluttony, the big news surrounding obesity drugs involves counterfeits and overdoses.

The Food and Drug Administration has seized thousands of units of counterfeit Ozempic, the diabetes drug also widely used for weight loss. Some fraudulent Ozempic products may still be on the market, according to the agency.

“The FDA and Novo Nordisk, the company that makes Ozempic, are now testing the seized medications to determine what is in them," according toThe New York Times. “So far, the agency has confirmed that the needles accompanying these injectable medications are counterfeit and may not be sterile. The labels, the packaging and the accompanying information for patients and health care providers are also all fraudulent.”



Counterfeit drugs rarely make it past pharmacists or other safeguards, says Shabbir Imber Safdar, the executive director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines, a nonprofit coalition that advocates protecting consumers against counterfeit and unsafe medicines.

But shortages can drive pharmacies to buy from distributors they may not be familiar with, he tells The New York Times, putting them at risk of buying counterfeits. Ozempic and similar drugs have faced supply challenges.

At least three people have been hospitalized due to adverse effects of taking the counterfeit products, according toPeople.

Another disturbing weight loss drug story to make headlines is about overdosing. 

Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30 this year, at least 2,941 Americans reported overdose exposures to semaglutide -- the medication prescribed under the brand names Ozempic, for treating Type 2 diabetes, and Wegovy, for weight management. Those stats come from a recent report from America’s Poison Centers, a national nonprofit representing 55 poison centers in the United States, according to the Los Angeles Times

“The nationwide number of semaglutide overdoses this year is more than double the 1,447 reported in 2022, which was more than double the 607 semaglutide overdoses reported in 2021,” the L.A. Times report continues.  “There were only 364 reported semaglutide overdoses in 2020 and 196 in 2019, less than 10% of the number that occurred so far this year.”

Clearly, there is money to be made on obesity in a variety of sectors, not just pharma. 

An Oppenheimer report, “Obesity Economies of Scale,” explores the magnitude of the obesity commercial opportunity.

Annual consensus sales estimates for obesity drugs are expected to reach $43 billion and $65 billion in 2032 for the U.S. and worldwide, respectively, reaching 8 million and 15 million patients, per the report. 

It’s unlikely the drug is going to disappear from the headlines anytime soon. Even Oprah takes it on occasion, she tellsPeople

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