Oct 12 (Reuters) – Novo Nordisk (NOVOb.CO) warned on Thursday of a rise in counterfeit versions of its weight-loss drug Wegovy and diabetes drug Ozempic offered online, as German authorities gave more details about the complex European trade in fake medicine. case.
“Novo Nordisk has recorded a significant increase in illegal online sales,” the company said in a statement, referring to products containing the active ingredient semaglutide.
In the midst of a global obesity crisis, Novo this year became Europe’s most valuable company due to growing demand for the weekly injection Wegovy and its lower-dose version, Ozempic, but this has attracted illegal traders who can put the health of users at risk.
Novo’s words of caution, previously reported by Danish publication Finans, represented the group’s first detailed comments on the issue of counterfeiting since a mid-June statement about fake Ozempic pens found in a U.S. retail pharmacy.
The warning came after Germany’s federal medicines regulator on Wednesday urged pharmacies and drug distributors to be vigilant following the discovery of wholesale batches of fake Ozempic.
Prosecutors in the southwest German town of Loerrach, near the Swiss border in Basel, said on Thursday that 199 packages had been identified as fake by a British medicine distributor who bought the batch from a company near Loerrach in September.
That company, in turn, received the shipment from a colleague in Austria, prosecutors said, adding that investigators are trying to find out whether more counterfeits were sold in Germany.
Novo said the fake U.S. batches had a different serial number than those found in Europe. He declined to comment further on the case investigated in Germany.
He stated that, in principle, he reported all cases of counterfeiting he found to the competent authorities and, in some cases, worked with “specialized companies to identify the perpetrators of these crimes”, without naming the countries where he did so.
The Danish pharmaceutical company also said it was working with third parties who specialize in monitoring and eliminating illegal online offers. She has stepped up this work in 2023 to ensure a broader reach, she said, declining to name the company she was working with.
In yet another sign of illicit activity capitalizing on the hype surrounding weight-loss drugs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday ordered two online sellers to stop selling unapproved versions of the drugs Novo and Eli. Lilly (LLY.N).
In September, Lilly filed lawsuits against U.S. medical spas, wellness centers and compounding pharmacies for selling products that claimed to contain tirzepatide, the active ingredient in its diabetes drug Mounjaro, which is expected to be approved for weight loss. still this year.
Novo took similar legal action in July.
Compounding pharmacies combine or alter ingredients to create a medicine tailored to each patient’s needs. The FDA has warned patients to avoid using a compounded drug if an approved drug is available.
Demand for Wegovy and Ozempic is exceeding supplies of Novo’s drugs in the United States, Germany and Britain, leading the company to restrict the supply of certain doses of Wegovy to the U.S. market.
Although only Wegovy is approved for obesity, the fact that Ozempic for diabetes also leads to dramatic weight loss has led people in the United States and Europe to use the drug “off-label,” i.e., not for its intended purpose. approved use.
Reporting by Maggie Fick and Ludwig Burger; Editing by Jan Harvey and Susan Fenton
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