The government bans replicas of a weight loss drug

Compounding pharmacists will be prohibited from producing replicas of diabetes drugs like Ozempic, which are often used off-label for weight loss, the federal government announced today.

Under current regulations, compounding pharmacists can individually reproduce brand-name drugs when they are in short supply, allowing them to legally copy them.

That means they are not subject to the same safety standards that govern drug approval.

Diabetes medications like Ozempic gained popularity due to their promotion of weight loss. (Getty Images)

Today, Health Minister Mark Butler announced that replica versions will be banned from October.

The decision comes after some patients reported side effects, such as severe vomiting and nerve damage.

At least 20,000 people are believed to be using copycat drugs due to a shortage of brand-name products.

Butler said the ban was necessary to “protect Australians from harm and save lives”.

“Australians should be able to have faith in the medicines they use, including compounded medicines. This is a priority for the government,” he said.

“We recognize that there is a valid place for capitalization in certain circumstances.”

Health Minister Mark Butler said the current system is no longer fit for purpose and flagged changes to the May budget.
Health Minister Mark Butler says replica weight loss drugs pose a danger to Australians. (9News)

Ozempic is manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk and has the active ingredient semaglutide.

Semaglutide mimics the effect of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), which stimulates insulin production, hence its use like Ozempic as a treatment for diabetes.

However, that same hormone also functions as an appetite suppressant, leading to the off-label use of Ozempic for weight loss.

Social media promotion and rumors about celebrities using Ozempic sparked the drug’s popularity as a weight loss treatment in recent months.