'Faux-zempic': What to know about compounded weight loss drugs

Physicians, drugmakers, obesity organizations and the FDA are fretting about compounded versions of popular weight loss and diabetes drugs, including Wegovy, Ozempic and Zepbound. 

"Faux-zempic," a moniker for counterfeit Ozempic solutions, has been spotted at compounding pharmacies, med spas and clinics across the U.S. In late December, the FDA warned clinicians about infections linked to fake versions of the Type 2 diabetes drug, which is often used off-label for weight loss. 

Since starting an investigation in October, the agency has seized thousands of counterfeit doses and needles. Clinicians have also raised alarms about infection risks tied to med spas, and the makers of the popular therapies are working to sue companies selling unapproved compounded versions. 

Between 2021 and 2023, calls to U.S. poison control centers about overdoses on Ozempic and Wegovy, Novo Nordisk's drug for chronic weight management, nearly quadrupled. Compounded versions might be behind the surge in calls, national officials said, because these solutions require patients to draw their own doses instead of receiving name-brand pre-filled pens.

In early January, the Obesity Action Coalition, the Obesity Society and the Obesity Medicine Association co-wrote a statement about the issue of compounded versions of Wegovy and Zepbound, two weight loss medications in the same drug class as Ozempic and Mounjaro. 

"Obesity is a serious disease; FDA-approved treatment that is effective and safe is available," the organizations said. "Please use the same care when trying to treat obesity as you would any other serious medical condition."

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