The maker of miracle weight loss drug Ozempic is suing five weight loss clinics across the United States for allegedly selling knock-off versions of its medication.
Novo Nordisk filed a slew of federal lawsuits against weight loss and wellness clinics in Texas, Florida, New York and Tennessee on Tuesday accusing the businesses of false advertising, trademark infringement and unfair competition.
It is asking the courts to prevent the spas and clinics from claiming their drugs contain the main ingredients in Ozempic, Rybelsus and Wegovy, and is asking federal judges to require that the spas and clinics disclose their products are not affiliated with Novo Nordisk and are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
‘We’re trying to eliminate any confusion and any potential deception that could be out there,’ Doug Langa, who oversees the company’s North America operations, told the Wall Street Journal.
He said the company is now hoping the suits will send a message to other spas and clinics that the drug maker won’t tolerate efforts to portray the knock-offs as the real thing.
It comes just weeks after the FDA issued a warning about dangerous Ozempic ‘cocktails’ that were making people sick.
Some clinics and spas are selling knock-off versions of Ozempic and Wegovy, which have become major weight loss drugs
Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen, chief executive officer of Novo Nordisk, is pictured
Ozempic has become a miracle drug in recent months, as celebrities like Elon Musk tout it for their ability to lose weight on the drug.
It, as well as Rybelsus, were approved by the FDA to treat diabetes, while Wegovy was cleared by the federal government for chronic weight management in people who are overweight and have related conditions like high blood pressure.
All three drugs contain semaglutide as its main ingredient.
The drugs spiraled into shortage amid rocketing demand for the injections.
More than five million prescriptions of the drugs, alongside Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro, were written last year, which was a 21-fold surge from 230,000 in 2019.
To meet surging demand Novo Nordisk, which manufactures the drugs, has opened more and more production lines.
But amid the shortages pharmacies have been allowed to mix their own versions of the drug, in a process known as compounding.
Many of these compounding pharmacies offer the drugs at a cheaper rate than Novo Nordisk, which lists them for as much as $1,350 a month.
The company is now trying to fight back against these compounded drugs — which have come with dangerous side effects.
It is suing Champion Health and Wellness Clinics, which operates in Houston; Effinger Health’s Nuvida RX Weight Loss clinic in Tallahassee; Ekzotika’s Cosmetic Laser Professionals Med Spa in Miami; Flawless Image Medical Aesthetics operating in East Syracuse, NY, and Pro Health Investments in Memphis.
Novo Nordisk alleges these spas and clinics engaged in unlawful marketing, promotional and sales practices, like using Novo Nordisk trademarks and falsely stating that their compounded drugs were the real thing or were FDA approved.
Flawless Image Medical Aesthetics operating in East Syracuse, New York is one of the wellness centers being sued by Novo Nordisk
Pro Health Investments runs several different clinics in the Memphis, Tennessee area
The lobby of Ekzotika’s Cosmetic Laser Professionals Med Spa in Miami is pictured here
The waiting room at Effinger Health’s Nuvida RX Weight Loss clinic in Tallahassee is pictured
Champion Health and Wellness’ website boasts its semaglutide program, which it says is an ‘in-office or virtually-consulted program that can be undertaken completely from your own home.
‘In two months, you could lose up to 25 pounds. In four months, you could lose up to 50 pounds or more!’ the website says, noting that patients can repeat the program as much as they would like.
It also said there would be ‘no special diets’ and ‘no difficult work outs.’
‘Just inject once a week, and watch your weight drop.’
Effinger Health’s Nuvida RX Weight Loss clinic’s website also advertises ‘Ozempic’ in a pop-up on its website, telling users to check out its special of $400 for a one-month supply of the drug.
Flawless Image’s Facebook also has a post from a client claiming he lost weight on the clinic’s ‘Wegovy’ product, encouraging patients to start their ‘semaglutide weight loss journey.’
And the Pro Health website asks right on its homepage: ‘Are you looking for semaglutide?’
But the FDA has not approved any generic versions of Ozempic, Rybellsus or Wegovy, and under federal law, businesses are not supposed to sell their own versions of FDA-approved drugs without getting the agency’s approval and so long as a patent protects the products.
DailyMail.com has reached out to the clinics for comment but Champion Health and Wellness, Effinger Health’s Nuvida RX Weight Loss, Flawless Image Medical Aesthetics and Pro Health Investments have not yet responded.
Contact information for Ekzotika’s Cosmetic Laser Professionals Med Spa could not be found.
Champion Health and Wellness’ website boasts its semaglutide program
The Pro Health website asks right on its homepage: ‘Are you looking for semaglutide?’
The lawsuits come just a few weeks after the FDA warned that compounded drugs should be avoided if the approved versions of the drug were available.
It said side effects had been reported in relation to the drugs, but did not detail what these were. Semaglutide is known, however, to cause a range of side effects including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and constipation.
The agency also said it had received reports of some pharmacies using salt versions of the drug — semaglutide sodium and semaglutide acetate.
It said this differs from the active ingredient used in the approved drugs, which only contain the base form of semaglutide.
The agency said: ‘Patients should be aware that some products sold as “semaglutide” may not contain the same active ingredient as FDA-approved semaglutide products.
‘Products containing these salts, such as semaglutide sodium and semaglutide acetate, have not been shown to be safe and effective.’
It added: ‘Purchasing medicine online from unregulated, unlicensed sources can expose patients to potentially unsafe products that have not undergone appropriate evaluation or approval, or do not meet quality standards.’