Last year, Robin Langois, 58, was prescribed the weight-loss medication Wegovy, but she was unable to pay the hefty cost because her insurance would not cover it.
But she then learned on TikTok that people could purchase semaglutide, which appeared to be the drug’s active ingredient, for a far lower cost from compounding pharmacies.
Despite her initial reluctance and worries about her safety, Langois, of Tucson, Arizona, claims she eventually found a telehealth physician who could issue her a prescription.
Langois admitted, “I’m not entirely convinced it’s what I’m getting. She did, however, mention that she had experienced nausea, a typical adverse effect of the medication, as well as sensations of fullness and weight loss. It’s functioning as it should, she declared.
People are looking for generic versions of the brand-name drugs Ozempic and Wegovy, both of which contain the active component semaglutide, either because of price or recurrent shortages.
As Langois did, some patients are turning to compounding pharmacies for the hard-to-find weight-loss medications.
In a statement, Novo Nordisk, the sole producer of Ozempic and Wegovy and the owner of the semaglutide patent, stated that it does not supply the ingredient to these pharmacies. This has some experts wondering where pharmacies are obtaining the medication from and whether it actually is semaglutide.
Dr. Fatima Cody, an obesity specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and adviser to Novo Nordisk, said, “That’s the million-dollar question.
Compounding pharmacies: what are they?
According to the Food and Drug Administration, compounding pharmacies combine and modify prescription ingredients to make treatments catered to particular patient needs.
Drugs’ active components are typically used to make compounded treatments. In the cases of Ozempic and Wegovy, that is semaglutide.
Yet, while having FDA-approved components, compounded pharmaceuticals are not itself regulated, monitored, or evaluated by the FDA, according to pharmacist Benjamin Jolley, proprietor of Jolley’s Compounding Pharmacy in Salt Lake City.
According to the FDA, hospitals will occasionally employ a compounded medication when a commercially accessible alternative is not the best choice. To avoid some side effects, they could reduce the amount of a painkiller or take out any preservatives or colours that could trigger an allergic reaction.
If there is a scarcity, the FDA will also provide exemptions allowing compounding pharmacists to produce specific pharmaceuticals, according to Jeremy Kahn, a spokeswoman for the organisation.
Real semaglutide is it available at compounding pharmacies? Is it secure?
Wegovy and Ozempic compounded formulations are becoming more and more popular, according to Dr. Chris McGowan, who owns a weight management clinic in Cary, North Carolina.
“What patients are telling me is, ‘Well, hey, I heard about this compounded semaglutide,'” the doctor said. May I give that a shot?” he asked.
Mary Morgan Mills, 32, of Raleigh, North Carolina, visited McGowan after using semaglutide for approximately a year, according to what she was informed was a compounded version of the drug.
She gained roughly 15 pounds while receiving the weekly injection, which she received at a wellness centre and which made her queasy.
She remarked, “I felt bamboozled,” and she continued, “I still have bottles of it in my fridge.”
Although I don’t know the procedure, I’ve always wanted to go get it tested to see what it is.
According to McGowan, compounding pharmacies frequently do not completely disclose their drug procurement practises.
Jolley, who does not sell semaglutide, speculated that people may be receiving semaglutide sodium, a less expensive and modified form of the drug that is only to be used in research. But the FDA hasn’t approved semaglutide sodium, he claimed, so selling it would be against the law.
According to him, compounding pharmacists may also buy large quantities of semaglutide from wholesalers and divide it into smaller dosages or combine it with other medicinal ingredients.
It would essentially dilute the medication, which Matt Buderer, a pharmacist and proprietor of the Buderer Drug Company Compounding Pharmacy in Ohio, said doesn’t make sense because it would make the treatment less effective.
The FDA may not have adequately reviewed the chemicals compounding pharmacies are employing if what they are marketing as semaglutide is not the actual medication, according to McGowan.
When considering any kind of compounded semaglutide or compounded tirzepatide, another medicine that is now being marketed in a compounded form, he advised patients to use extreme caution. (Eli Lilly produces the diabetic medication tirzepatide, which likewise has benefits on weight loss.)