Counterfeit diabetes drugs have been in circulation since 2022, a problem affecting all regions of the world, the World Health Organization warned in a statement.

The health authority on Thursday referred specifically to findings in Britain, the US and Brazil since October 2023.

The drug concerns Ozempic, a medicine containing the active ingredient semaglutide, which is also approved in the EU for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

The counterfeit version looks identical to the real medicine. Because the product also suppresses the appetite, it is increasingly being prescribed for weight loss.

But counterfeit drugs may not contain the right amount of active ingredients and could therefore lead to uncontrolled sugar in diabetics, the WHO said, adding they may also contain other active ingredients that pose health risks.

The WHO called on doctors, pharmacists, regulatory authorities and the public to be vigilant.

People should only buy medicines on prescription from pharmacies and not online, the WHO said.

Users should ensure that the dosage scale on insulin pens is displayed correctly, the label looks correct and there are no spelling mistakes on the box, the global health agency added.

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