Eli Lilly flags bacteria, impurity concerns in fake and compounded versions of popular GLP-1 meds

With the swelling popularity of Eli Lilly’s diabetes med Mounjaro and its weight loss counterpart Zepbound, unauthorized copycats continue to emerge, posing a growing safety risk.

In an updated open letter, the company expressed “deep concern” over sham products that falsely claim to be real, FDA-approved medicines.

Lilly reiterated that it does not sell any product referred to as simply tirzepatide, the active ingredient in its Mounjaro and Zepbound. The company doesn’t provide the ingredient to any compounding pharmacies, either.

Meanwhile, the drugmaker has discovered fake and compounded versions of the drugs that contain “bacteria, high impurity levels, different chemical structures" and other concerning features that differentiate them from the company's medicines, according to the letter.

In “at least one” case, the phony drug was nothing more than sugar alcohol.

Lilly said it will continue its pursuit of legal action against the sellers of frauds, which include certain medical spas and wellness centers, plus compounding pharmacies.

Last fall, Lilly went after those selling scam products with eight complaints seeking unspecified damages in five different states.

The company targeted four compounding pharmacies and four medical spas and wellness centers, one of which was openly advertising Mounjaro on its website despite Lilly not providing the branded drug. That med spa has since removed the product from its website.

Fellow GLP-1 maker Novo Nordisk has doled out similar warnings against fake versions of its semaglutide med Ozempic. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, unauthorized Ozempic copycats sent three people to the hospital last year with hypoglycemia, the organization told Reuters in January.

Lilly’s recent letter was a republished edition of one issued in January that communicated the company's stance against off-label use of the GLP-1 drugs for cosmetic weight loss.

That unapproved usage continues to skyrocket, with many celebrities feeding the frenzy through their open use of GLP-1s.