Ozempic Craze Hits China, With Prices Rising Fast on Black Market: CNN

Visitors pose for a selfie at the Temple of Heaven on the last day of the May Day holiday period in Beijing, Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo

  • The Ozempic craze has hit China, causing shortages and price hikes, reports say.
  • Fake prescription use has pushed the online price of the drug as high as $100 a dose.
  • Poeple using it to lose weight has caused shortages for Type 2 diabetes patients, doctors say.

People in China are rushing to buy up Ozempic for weight loss, causing a boom in prices and leaving shortages for diabetes patients, according to reports.

While in the US, semaglutide — the generic term for the drug — has been approved for use in weight loss, in China it is restricted to diabetes treatment, Bloomberg reported. Even so, supplies are being bought up fast via fake prescriptions.

A thriving black market has driven up the price of a single dose online, with CNN reporting doses selling for up to 50% above the official price of $67, at around $100.

State-controlled news outlet China Daily reported in April that many locations were out of stock, making it scarce for patients with Type 2 diabetes, who need the drug to control their blood sugar. One Guangzhou hospital ran out of the drug in May, CNN reported. 

Semaglutide — marketed as Wegovy when used for weight loss in the US — has proven in some studies to be effective in causing weight loss. It’s approved for people with obesity, or for some people who are overweight who have other health conditions. Its use is safe, but multiple side effects have been documented. 

But like in the US — where buyers have gone so far as to seek out the drug in Canada and Mexico — many people in China are undeterred. 

The craze has been fueled by social media, to the extent that e-commerce social platform Xiaohongshu installed a pop-up alert telling those searcing for the drug to “go to formal medical facilities for treatment,” per CNN. 

The platform has also deleted thousands of posts by people sharing their experiences with the drug, CNN reported. 

China’s medical industry is now rushing to catch up, with one company, Huadong Medicine Co, challenging semaglutide manufacturer Novo Nordisk for its patent, Bloomberg reported. 

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