As weight loss medications gain in popularity it’s important to be well informed and understand what medication you are taking, and where it is coming from. Some pharmacies or medical providers are offering alternative medications and compare them to Saxenda®, Wegovy® or Ozempic®. Generic versions of these injectable medications are not currently on the market and the “cheaper” medications being offered are likely to not be the same as the brand name versions. Although these alternatives may use the same molecule name, like semaglutide, they are compounded, which means they are not the same as branded weight loss medications.
What are compounded drugs?
According to the FDA, drug compounding is the process of combining, mixing, or altering ingredients to create a medication tailored to the needs of an individual. Compounding can include the combining of two or more drugs. In some cases, compounded drugs are necessary for those who need specialized care. Examples might include a person who is allergic to a specific dye, and needs it removed from a medication, or a person who cannot swallow a pill and needs a liquid version of the medication. In unique situations like these, compounding the medication can provide individuals with access to the treatment they need. Compounded medication should be prescribed by a doctor who is actively overseeing the care of the patient, and fulfilled at a reputable compounding pharmacy.
What about compounded weight loss medications?
Compounded medications for weight loss are now being offered in multiple pharmacies, clinics and websites. They are offering compounded drugs and comparing them to Saxenda®, Wegovy® or Ozempic®. To protect the health and safety of our patients, FORM does not compound its own peptides or endorse the use of compounded drugs for weight loss. FORM doctors only prescribe FDA-approved medication when it is deemed appropriate, after a thorough review of the patient’s medical history and weight loss journey.
Read on to understand the concerns of FORM’s expert weight loss clinicians.
Compounded medications may not be the drug they claim to be
Compounding pharmacies that claim to have the same active ingredients found in popular weight loss medications may not be telling an accurate story. NovoNordisk® and Eli Lilly®, the two manufacturers of the newest injectable medications used for weight loss, have made public statements that they do not and have not sold wholesale peptides to compounding pharmacies. This means that whatever is being included in the compounded medication is not exactly the same as what has been approved by the FDA.
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Compounded medications are not FDA regulated and may not be safe
Our top priority for FORM is patient safety. Compounded drugs are not monitored by the FDA, so consistency or safety from batch to batch cannot be assured, and there have been reported issues of purity among compounded weight loss medications. It’s possible these medications are being mixed with other compounds that are touted to promote weight loss but that are not FDA-approved or shown to be safe.
In addition, FDA oversight for safety or sanitary standards is not the same for compounding pharmacies as it is for regulated labs and manufacturing facilities that produce FDA approved medications. Compounding pharmacies have little oversight and adverse events do not need to be reported, meaning there is no way to identify risk or effectiveness to individuals. State boards across the country, and expert medical professional societies, are warning against the use of compounded weight loss medications.
Compounded medications may not work as well or have the same benefits
The FDA does not require compounded drugs to have gone through any clinical trial testing. Therefore, the FDA or prescriber cannot ensure the benefits/efficacy as they do for FDA-approved prescription drugs. This means people could be spending money on compounded products that are not only costly and unsafe, and it may not even do what it claims.
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Compounding weight loss medications do not have a cost benefit
While headlines may say “cheaper Ozempic”, that is not what the cost breakdown is showing. These compounded shots being marketed as “same as Ozempic” are in the $150-$200/week range, which is actually comparable to the cost of the brand-name medication from a pharmacy when it is not covered by insurance, and much more than when it is covered.
Compounding medications do meet clinical standards
FORM is dedicated to providing quality evidence-based medical weight loss care. The National Obesity Medicine Association recently published an extensive position statement advising against using compounded peptides, and highlights the risk to individuals. FORM is aligned with the position of the national Obesity Medicine Association.
How FORM can help with weight loss medications
For those struggling with their weight, we understand why places offering cheaper weight loss medication and fast results may be enticing. It’s important to keep your safety and wellbeing as your top priority by working with certified medical weight loss professionals. At FORM, all patients undergo a comprehensive medical evaluation, including laboratory studies, and participate in frequent visits with a medical provider and Registered Dietitian who provide personalized lifestyle counseling, accountability, and support for long-term behavior change. If appropriate, FDA-approved weight loss medications can be prescribed. If you are interested in starting a medical weight loss program, schedule a call or send a message to FORM today for more information. You can also take our quiz to see if you are eligible to join FORM.
Wegovy®, Saxenda® and Ozempic® are registered trademarks of Novo Nordisk A/S.
About the Author:
Dr. Halperin is Chief Medical Officer at FORM and an endocrinologist who completed her training at Harvard Medical School. Before joining Form, she was Co-Director of the Center for Weight Management and Metabolic Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Halperin is passionate about helping people lose weight as a way to better their health. She has been selected as a Castle Connolly America’s Top Doctor and Boston Magazine Top Doctor for several years, including 2020.