A Korean wholesaler has allegedly smuggled popular obesity drug Saxenda into China, industry sources said.
Multiple sources said the Korean authorities are investigating a pharmaceutical wholesaler for allegedly selling the Novo Nordisk’s obesity treatment to China through an illegal channel.
Novo Nordisk, the developer and the seller of Saxenda, said it was well aware of the situation and it would prepare a guideline to prevent a similar incidence.
“Frankly speaking, we are dumbfounded. This happened because it was difficult to control sub-distributors. We will do our best not to repeat the same mistake,” an official at Novo Nordisk said.
Zuellig Pharma Korea, which distributes Saxenda in the local market, said it has terminated its contract with the wholesaler under the probe and that it would tighten control on sub-distributors’ illegal smuggling or abnormal distribution of drugs.
Pharmaceutical industry officials said hype over Saxenda caused the illegal smuggling.
Saxenda arrived in the domestic market in March, and the demand for the weight-loss treatment has rapidly risen since prescriptions started in April. The treatment has taken the Korean obesity market by storm, and the supply went short often.
Although some raised concerns that patients might fear Saxenda’s injection form, the treatment won huge popularity with people becoming less scared of injections and excellent efficacy in weight control.
However, the rapid sales growth in Korea did not reflect the treatment’s problems.
In the U.S., the Justice Department fined Novo Nordisk $58.65 million (66.2 billion won) for failing to provide sufficient information about side effects of liraglutide, the ingredient of diabetes drug Victoza and Saxenda. However, Novo Nordisk did not share the information in the Korean market, critics said.
Local media reports raised suspicions that various online and offline sites sold the obesity treatment illegally. Some clinics reportedly received warning emails from the authorities after posting an ad of Saxenda within the clinic and on the clinic’s website directly.
A surge in demand for the weight-control injection in Korea has led Chinese people to seek the drug, which China has yet approved.
“Korea’s popular items such as Centellian 24 Madeca Cream and hyaluronic acid were often smuggled to China in the past. As Saxenda drew attention as a weight-loss treatment, the illegal smuggling seems to have occurred this time,” an official at a drugmaker said.
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