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WHO Issues Critical Global Health Alert as Fake Ozempic Drugs Containing Harmful ‘Unverified’ Ingredients Hit the UK


The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently issued a critical warning regarding fake semaglutide medications, specifically targeting the widely used diabetes drug Ozempic and Wegovy. This alert follows the discovery of counterfeit batches in several countries, mainly in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, and the U.S., raising serious health concerns globally. 

What is the Alert and its Implications? 

On 20 June 2024, the WHO released an urgent medical product alert highlighting the dangers associated with fake semaglutide injections. These counterfeit drugs were detected between October and December 2023. This marks the first official notice from WHO, although reports of fake semaglutide products have been rising since 2022. 

Dr Yukiko Nakatani, WHO Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, emphasised the importance of vigilance among healthcare professionals, regulatory authorities, and the public. She urged the immediate cessation of any suspicious medications and reporting to relevant authorities to prevent further health risks. 

The Surge in Counterfeiting Semaglutide Drugs in the UK 

The global shortage of diabetes and weight loss medications has fuelled the rise in counterfeiting. Semaglutide, including Ozempic and Wegovy, are in high demand due to their effectiveness in lowering blood sugar levels and reducing cardiovascular risks. These drugs are typically administered via weekly injections and have also gained popularity for their appetite-suppressing properties, leading to increased prescriptions for weight loss. 

However, the scarcity of these medications has led to a significant spike in counterfeit products. These fake drugs often lack the necessary active ingredients or contain harmful substitutes, posing severe health risks. Unmanaged blood glucose levels, unanticipated weight fluctuations, and adverse reactions from harmful substances like insulin are just a few potential dangers of using counterfeit semaglutide. 

A study by University of Michigan researchers revealed a staggering 594% increase in the dispensing of weight loss drugs to adolescents and young adults from 2020 to 2023. This surge in demand underscores the critical need for genuine, safe medications. Unfortunately, counterfeit drugs threaten to undermine these health benefits, exposing users to unpredictable health complications. 

The MHRA has seized 369 potentially fake Ozempic pens since January 2023 and has also received reports of fake Saxenda pens obtained by members of the public in the UK through non-legitimate routes (without any prescriptions).  In one alarming case, a woman faced potentially fatal consequences from using a fake pen. These incidents highlight the urgent need for public awareness and stricter regulatory measures to combat counterfeit medications. 

Economic and Legal Repercussions 

The proliferation of fake semaglutide products is not just a public health issue but also an economic concern for legitimate manufacturers. Companies producing FDA-approved GLP-1 drugs like Eli Lilly (manufactorer of Mounjaro) and Novo Nordisk (manufactorer of Ozempic and Wegovy) face financial losses and reputational damage due to counterfeit batches. 

On 21 June 2024, Eli Lilly filed six lawsuits against wellness centres and medical spas in Ohio, Texas, Hawaii, and Washington, D.C., for falsely claiming their compounded tripeptide products were FDA-approved. This legal action follows previous lawsuits against nearly a dozen other spas and pharmacies. Novo Nordisk has also pursued similar legal measures to protect its products and consumers from dangerous counterfeits. 

How Can You Protect Yourself from Counterfeit Semaglutide Medications? 

Patients using semaglutide injection  can take several precautions to safeguard against counterfeit medications. It is crucial to purchase these drugs with a prescription from licensed physicians and verified weight loss treatment providers, avoiding unverified sources. Checking the packaging, expiration dates, and proper storage instructions, such as refrigeration for injectable semaglutides, can further ensure the authenticity and safety of the medication. 

WHO is actively monitoring and addressing counterfeit semaglutide products. The organisation is developing rapid guidelines on the use of GLP-1 receptor agonists, including semaglutides, for treating obesity in adults, aiming for a model that balances accessibility, cost, and high standards of care. 

The alert on fake Ozempic and other semaglutide drugs highlights a major global health issue. Patients, healthcare providers, and authorities must work together to combat counterfeit medications and ensure the availability of safe, effective treatments for diabetes and weight loss. 

Want to learn more about Wegovy? Read our Wegovy blogs here.

At Semapen ( part of phoenix health bariatric group ), we strictly follow UK NICE regulations and provide medication only with precriptions. We always guide our patients on how to detect counterfeit Semaglutide pens, we don’t sell Ozempic, as it is approved only for type 2 diabetes in the UK and, cannot be used for weight loss.  But we do sell Wegovy injection and Mounjaro injection both of which are approved for weight loss treatment in the UK.  

Buy Wegovy in the UK


Lee, J.M., Sharifi, M., Oshman, L., Griauzde, D.H. and Chua, K., 2024. Dispensing of Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonists to Adolescents and Young Adults, 2020-2023. *JAMA*, 331(23), pp.2041-2043. doi:10.1001/jama.2024.7112.