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Australia to ban copycats of Ozempic weight loss medication

Australia to ban copycats of Ozempic weight loss medication
Bags of counterfeit Novo Nordisk A/S Ozempic at a warehouse operated by the UK's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in London, UK, on Monday, Feb. 27, 2024. (Photo: Jose Sarmento Matos/Bloomberg)

Australia will ban pharmacies from creating replicas of popular weight loss drugs like Ozempic, following reports of dangerous side effects including one patient’s hospitalisation for a “serious adverse incident”.

Pharmacies will be restricted from making GLP-1 receptor agonist products — a class of drugs that help manage blood sugar levels — for individual patients, Health Minister Mark Butler said in a statement on Wednesday. That loophole had previously allowed the creation of Ozempic-like products that hadn’t been approved by Australian regulators.

More than 20,000 Australian patients have been using imitation drugs, largely to try to lose weight, according to Butler.  

“While I understand that this action may concern some people, the risk of not acting is far greater,” he said in the statement. “You only have to look at the recent reports of individuals impacted by large-scale compounding to realise the dangers posed.”

Booming demand for weight loss drugs including Novo Nordisk A/S’s Ozempic has led to shortages of the medications around the world, even as some users report side effects including nausea. A May poll of US consumers found that one in eight had tried some variation of the new class of drugs.

Read More: How a Weight Loss Wonder Drug Gobbled Up an Entire Economy

A spokesperson for Novo Nordisk said the drug giant has always maintained that compounded semaglutide products shouldn’t be prescribed to patients, as they represent a “potential significant safety risk.”

“We do not, and will not, support any type of non-indicated (off-label) use of a Novo Nordisk product at any time,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The Australian government’s move is supported by the country’s Therapeutic Goods Administration, while internationally, the US Food and Drug Administration has warned about the dangers of injecting some compounded products after adverse incidents in America.

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