The high price of Ozempic is pushing many to unregulated, copycat drugs for weight loss

When Robin Langois, 58, was prescribed the weight-loss drug Wegovy last year, she couldn’t afford the high price tag after her insurance wouldn’t cover it.

But she later discovered on TikTok that people could get their hands on what appeared to be the drug’s active ingredient, semaglutide, from compounding pharmacies for a fraction of the price.

Langois, of Tucson, Arizona, said she was initially hesitant, because of safety concerns, but she eventually found a telehealth provider to write her a prescription.

“I’m not 100% sure it’s what I’m getting,” Langois said. She noted, however, that she’s experienced feelings of fullness and weight loss, as well as nausea, a common side effect of the drug. “It’s working like it should,” she said.

Either due to cost or ongoing shortages, people are seeking alternatives to the brand name medications Ozempic and Wegovy, both of which contain the active ingredient semaglutide.

Some people, like Langois, are turning to compounding pharmacies for the difficult-to-get weight loss drugs.

Novo Nordisk, the sole manufacturer of Ozempic and Wegovy and the patent-holder of semaglutide, said in a statement that it does not provide the ingredient to these pharmacies, leading some experts to question where pharmacies are sourcing the drug — and whether it is semaglutide at all.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” said Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, a physician specializing in obesity at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who serves as an adviser to Novo Nordisk.