Weight-loss drugs have proven to be effective in the fight against obesity, but what about compounded versions?

Shortages of semaglutide-based medications like Wegovy and Ozempic are pushing many eager to lose weight to turn to custom-made compounds. However, this has caused some alarm among medical professionals and regulators, who stress that taking compounded versions of weight loss drugs carries considerable risk.

The FDA reported earlier this year that it had received several reports of individuals experiencing adverse events using compounded semaglutide.

“Patients should not use a compounded drug if an approved drug is available to treat a patient. Patients and health care professionals should understand that the agency does not review compounded versions of these drugs for safety, effectiveness, or quality,” the FDA stated.

As previously covered in The Dallas Express, much of the concern resides in compounders using salt forms of semaglutide, which has been registered with the FDA as a research chemical but not approved for any other use.

Nevertheless, semaglutide-based medications are in short supply, meaning that licensed pharmacists in compounding pharmacies are permitted to mix, alter, or reassemble drugs to meet patients’ needs. These drugs can also be substantially cheaper than true-blue injectables, which can cost over $1,000 a month without insurance.

With obesity rates skyrocketing across the globe, the uptake of these revolutionary medications, which curb hunger and slow down digestion, has increased dramatically in the past few years. Obesity is increasingly being linked to various negative health outcomes, from heart disease to depression.

Roughly one in eight Americans have taken these drugs, initially developed for diabetes but then applied to obesity.

Dallas-Fort Worth is becoming “one of the top markets” for injectables, as Dr. Praveen Guntipalli, board-certified physician of obesity and medical director of Sanjiva Medical Spa, told The Dallas Morning News. Of the 1,500 patients he sees each year, up to 30% are using semaglutide-based injectables to lose weight.

Anyone thinking about using compounded semaglutide medications is encouraged to do his due diligence, as there are counterfeiters peddling products to consumers.

“We hear from prescribers frequently that they are being bombarded with advertisements from these so-called pharmacies that, in fact, are not pharmacies at all,” Scott Brunner, CEO of the Alliance for Pharmacy Compounding, told NPR in a recent interview.

“So we do believe there’s counterfeit activity out there. You’d best be careful. But never, never, never inject something in your body that you did not get [with] a prescription from a licensed prescriber and a state licensed pharmacy.”