Underground Trade in Weight-Loss Drugs: Growing Paralysis Concern

The U.S.-based Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI), an industry-backed organization boasting Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly as key members, is at the forefront of efforts to combat this illicit trade. PSI has forged strategic partnerships with global agencies, including Europol, Interpol, and the U.S.

Homeland Security, as well as technology companies such as Israel’s BrandShield. Together, they are pooling resources to tackle the proliferation of counterfeit weight-loss drugs.


In their combined efforts, PSI and its partners have launched inquiries into reports of fake drugs, closely monitored e-commerce platforms and social media for illicit purchase offers, and undertaken initiatives to educate customs officials on identifying counterfeit products.

Their goal is to dismantle the networks responsible for producing and distributing these fraudulent medications.

Targeting the Counterfeit Market: Collaborative Efforts

The collaboration between PSI and various international agencies exemplifies a concerted effort to safeguard public health. Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic, originally approved for diabetes treatment, has garnered widespread attention as a weight-loss solution.

Similarly, Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro, initially indicated for diabetes, is on track for FDA approval as an obesity treatment. Both drugs, along with Novo’s Wegovy, are in high demand, exacerbated by the global obesity epidemic and soaring diabetes rates.

Jim Mancuso, director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, highlighted the urgency of the situation, stating, “These weight loss drugs are a hot topic right now because they’re on TV and getting a lot of media attention. If I’m a criminal organization, that’s the next opportunity I go ahead and exploit.” Collaborating with Europol, Interpol, and numerous other law enforcement agencies, Mancuso and his team are working tirelessly to stem the tide of counterfeit lifestyle medicines, fearing a surge comparable to that of erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra.

The Health Risks of Counterfeit Weight-Loss Drugs

Despite Novo Nordisk’s insistence that Ozempic and Wegovy are specifically indicated for diabetes and weight loss, these weekly injection drugs have become household names in America for their off-label use as lifestyle treatments. This has inadvertently propelled them into the crosshairs of counterfeiters seeking to exploit the high demand.

Counterfeit versions of Ozempic have already been discovered in at least 14 countries, including the UK, Germany, Egypt, and Russia. Authorities have issued warnings to pharmacies and consumers alike, urging vigilance due to the uncertainty surrounding the contents of these counterfeit drugs. The World Health Organization has emphasized the significant health risks associated with their use.

Reports suggest that counterfeit obesity drugs, owing to their high market value, are predominantly sold in affluent countries, including those in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. This is a departure from the typical distribution pattern of counterfeit drugs, which tends to target less privileged regions.

In conclusion, the surge in demand for weight-loss drugs has inadvertently given rise to a worrying black market in counterfeits, putting unwitting consumers at risk. The collaborative efforts of organizations like PSI, alongside global law enforcement agencies, are crucial in combating this illicit trade. It is imperative that authorities, pharmaceutical companies, and the public remain vigilant in order to protect the health and well-being of individuals seeking legitimate treatments for weight loss and related conditions.

“In the fight against counterfeit weight-loss drugs, global collaboration and heightened vigilance are paramount to safeguarding public health.”

Source: Medindia

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