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How to Spot Fake Mounjaro and Zepbound

How to Spot Fake Mounjaro and Zepbound

Key Takeaways

  • Fake tirzepatide, the drug marketed as Mounjaro and Zepbound, is being sold in some stores and online.
  • Drug maker Eli Lilly has filed six lawsuits against people who are selling fake products.

The popularity of tirzepatide has exploded over the past year after research showed how effective it is for significant weight loss. But counterfeit versions of the medications have led drug manufacturer Eli Lilly to pursue legal action. 

Lilly has filed six lawsuits against people who are hawking fake Mounjaro and Zepbound, the type 2 diabetes and anti-obesity drugs, respectively, that are made with tirzepatide. The products are sold online as well as at med spas and wellness centers.

Lilly also issued an open letter detailing the dangers of using these counterfeit products.

In a news release, Lilly explains how these companies “misleadingly” call their products Mounjaro or Zepbound, deceive consumers into thinking the medications they sell are part of Lilly’s clinical trials, and suggest that their own products are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) like Lilly’s products. 

Doctors said there are a few key signs that a Zepbound or Mounjaro product is fake: 

  • You can buy it on social media. Eli Lilly does not sell Zepbound or Mounjaro on social media, the company said in its open letter. 
  • It says “for research purposes only” or “not for human consumption.” Medications that have this on the label should not be used, Mir Ali, MD, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, told Verywell.
  • It’s not injectable. Real tirzepatide is taken via injection once a week. Any oral products that claim to be Zepbound or Mounjaro are fake.
  • It’s not prescribed by a healthcare provider. Even companies that sell these products through compounding pharmacies should have you consult with a doctor first. “These are powerful medications, and powerful medications come with the risk of powerful side effects,” Kunal Shah, MD, an assistant professor in the division of endocrinology at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center, told Verywell. “You have to be able to manage everything—not just get a prescription and move on.”

Shah said there is a reason these fake medications have surfaced: The real versions are incredibly expensive. “There’s not a lot of insurance coverage,” he said. “Ultimately, these medications need to be more accessible.”

What Is the Danger in Using Fake Tirzepatide?

Doctors who prescribe tirzepatide said there are a lot of potential issues with using counterfeit versions of the medication. 

“The worst thing is that it could contain some impurities or bacteria that could cause an infection and make you sick,” Ali said.

These medications also aren’t FDA-approved, Shah said. “Quality control is a big issue,” he said. “We’re not sure if what you’re getting is actual tirzepatide. It could be anything.”

Even if you happen to get real tirzepatide with a counterfeit medication, it can be difficult to get the dosing right, Shah said. “Some people may even get unsterilized needles, which can open you up to bad infectious diseases.”

But these medications also may simply be a waste of money. “The majority of these fake medications just aren’t effective,” Ali said. 

Compounded vs. Counterfeit Medications

It’s important to note that there are certain pharmacies that create compounded tirzepatide products that some doctors do recommend patients consider. But there is a difference between compounded medication and counterfeit products.

Compounded drugs are made from a combination of ingredients or altered ingredients to replicate a drug that is in a shortage. They can also be used to create a tailored version of a drug for a specific patient who may be allergic to a specific drug ingredient.

Compounded medications are not FDA approved and, as a result, they are not required to be reviewed for safety, effectiveness, or quality.

“But there are legitimate compounding pharmacies,” Ali said. “A lot of doctors will use them as a cheaper alternative to the name brand medication for patients who have trouble affording them.”

Compounding pharmacies “can produce the same medication with the same efficacy, but it has to be a legitimate pharmacy and has to be vetted by the clinic or provider,” Ali said.

Counterfeit medications, on the other hand, are just fake drugs that may or may not contain the ingredients they claim to possess, he said. 

What This Means For You

Fake Zepbound and Mounjaro are being sold online and in some med spas, but it’s dangerous to use these products. Doctors stress the importance of using a healthcare provider to access the medications if you truly need them.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Food and Drug Administration. Drug compounding and drug shortages.

Korin Miller

By Korin Miller

Miller is a health and lifestyle journalist with a master’s degree in online journalism. Her work appears in The Washington Post, Prevention, SELF, Women’s Health, and more.

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