- Issuing Office:
- Center for Drug Evaluation and Research | CDER
FROM: The United States Food and Drug Administration
RE: Notice of Unlawful Sale of Unapproved and Misbranded Drugs to United States Consumers Over the Internet
DATE: October 2, 2023
This is to advise you that the United States (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently reviewed your website at the Internet address www.semaspace.com and has observed that your website introduces into interstate commerce misbranded and unapproved new drugs in violation of sections 301(a), 301(d), 301(k), 503(b), and 505(a) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) [21 U.S.C. §§ 331(a), 331(d), 331(k), 353(b), and 355(a)].
As discussed below, FDA has observed that www.semaspace.com introduces into interstate commerce unapproved and misbranded semaglutide drug products. There are inherent risks to consumers who purchase unapproved new drugs and misbranded drugs. Unapproved new drugs do not carry the same assurances of safety and effectiveness as those drugs subject to FDA oversight. Drugs that have circumvented regulatory safeguards may be contaminated, counterfeit, contain varying amounts of active ingredients, or contain different ingredients altogether.1 Accordingly, FDA requests that www.semaspace.com cease offering any unapproved and misbranded drugs for sale to U.S. consumers. This is critical to protect the public from harm.
Unapproved New Drugs:
Certain products offered for sale by www.semaspace.com are drugs within the meaning of section 201(g) of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(g)] because they are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease and/or because they are intended to affect the structure or function of the body. These drugs are also new drugs as defined by section 201(p) of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(p)], because they are not generally recognized as safe and effective for their labeled uses. With certain exceptions not applicable here, new drugs may not be legally introduced or delivered for introduction into interstate commerce without prior approval from FDA, as described in section 505(a) of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 355(a)]. No approved applications pursuant to section 505 of the FD&C Act are in effect for these products. Accordingly, their introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce violates sections 301(d) [21 U.S.C. § 331(d)] and 505(a) of the FD&C Act.
For example, www.semaspace.com offers semaglutide drug products marketed as “Semaglutide 2mg” and “Semaglutide 5mg” for injection. These products are also described as “Generic semaglutide 2mg vial” and “Generic semaglutide 5mg vial,” respectively. Your website states, “Semaglutide is a weight-loss medicine that works by mimicking a body hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite. Semaglutide helps balance out hormones like insulin, significantly reduces blood sugar, and therefore suppresses your appetite and reduces food cravings.” Under the statement “You need Semaglutide if you have:,” you list “Excessive body weight,” “Obesity,” and “Excessive hunger and cravings.” While there are FDA-approved semaglutide products on the market in the U.S., there are no approved drug applications pursuant to section 505 of the FD&C Act in effect for the “Semaglutide 2mg” or “Semaglutide 5mg” offered by www.semaspace.com. Currently there are two injectable semaglutide products FDA-approved for the U.S. market and these products are only available pursuant to a prescription from a licensed practitioner. FDA-approved semaglutide injection marketed under the brand name Ozempic is indicated as an adjunct to diet and exercise to improve glycemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus and to reduce the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus and established cardiovascular disease. FDA-approved semaglutide injection marketed under the brand name Wegovy is indicated as an as an adjunct to a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity for chronic weight management in certain adult and pediatric patients. FDA-approved semaglutide products bear a boxed warning, commonly referred to as a “black box warning,” which is the strongest warning FDA requires, indicating that the drug carries a significant risk of serious or even life-threatening adverse effects. The boxed warning addresses the risk of thyroid C-cell tumors.
A drug is misbranded under section 502(f)(1) of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 352(f)(1)] if its labeling fails to bear adequate directions for use. “Adequate directions for use” means directions under which a layperson can use a drug safely and for the purposes for which it is intended (see 21 CFR 201.5). Prescription drugs, as defined in section 503(b)(1) of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 353(b)(1)] include those that, because of their toxicity or other potentiality for harmful effect, or the method of their use, or the collateral measures necessary for their use, are not safe for use except under supervision of a practitioner licensed by law to administer them. Prescription drugs, as defined in section 503(b)(1) of the FD&C Act, can be used safely only at the direction, and under the supervision, of a licensed practitioner.
Because the aforementioned drugs are prescription drugs intended for conditions that are not amenable to self-diagnosis and treatment by a layperson, adequate directions cannot be written such that a layperson can use the products safely for their intended use. Consequently, the labeling for these drugs fails to bear adequate directions for use, causing them to be misbranded under section 502(f)(1) of the FD&C Act. In addition, because the drugs are not approved in the U.S., they are also not exempt under 21 CFR 201.115(a) from the requirements of section 502(f)(1) of the FD&C Act. By offering these drugs for sale to U.S. consumers, www.semaspace.com is causing the introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce in violation of section 301(a) of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 331(a)].
As noted above, the “Semaglutide 2mg” and “Semaglutide 5mg” offered by www.semaspace.com are intended for injection, which heightens the public health concern associated with these products and may further contribute to the potential for patient harm. Injectable drug products can pose a serious risk of harm to users because they bypass many of the body’s natural defenses against toxic ingredients, toxins, or dangerous organisms that can lead to serious and life-threatening conditions such as septicemia or sepsis.
Furthermore, under U.S. law, prescription drugs can be dispensed only pursuant to a prescription from a healthcare practitioner licensed by law to administer prescription drugs. By offering the aforementioned drugs without requiring a prescription, www.semaspace.com jeopardizes patient safety and misbrands the drugs under section 503(b)(1) of the FD&C Act. Dispensing a prescription drug without a prescription is an act which results in the drug being misbranded while held for sale, in violation of section 301(k) of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 331(k)].
FDA is sending this warning letter to www.semaspace.com because of the inherent risks to consumers who purchase misbranded and unapproved new drugs. This letter is not intended to identify all the ways in which your products or operations might be in violation of the law. It is your responsibility to ensure that all products you offer for sale are in compliance with the FD&C Act and its implementing regulations. You should take prompt action to address any violations of the FD&C Act (which may include the offer for sale of similarly misbranded and/or unapproved new drugs other than the drugs noted above). We advise you to review your websites, product labels, and other labeling and promotional materials to ensure that you are not misleadingly representing your products as safe and effective for a use for which they have not been approved by FDA and that you are not distributing misbranded products in violation of the FD&C Act.
Please notify this office in writing within 15 working days describing the specific steps you have taken to address any violations and to prevent their recurrence. Include an explanation of each step being taken to remedy and prevent the recurrence of any violations, as well as copies of related documentation. Failure to adequately address this matter may result in legal action, including, without limitation, seizure and injunction, without further notice. If you cannot complete corrective action within 15 working days, state the reason for the delay and the time within which you will complete the corrections. This letter notifies you of our concerns and provides you with an opportunity to address them. If you believe that your products are not in violation of the FD&C Act, include your reasoning and any supporting information for our consideration within 15 working days.
If you are not located in the U.S., please note that products that appear to be misbranded or unapproved new drugs may be detained or refused admission. We may advise the appropriate regulatory officials in the country from which you operate that your products referenced above appear to be unapproved and misbranded products that cannot be legally sold to consumers in the U.S.
Please direct your response and any inquiries to FDA at FDAInternetPharmacyTaskForce-CDER@fda.hhs.gov.
S. Leigh Verbois, Ph.D.
Director, Office of Drug Security, Integrity, and Response
Office of Compliance
Center for Drug Evaluation and Research
1 For example, in the case of semaglutide, FDA has received reports that in some cases, compounders may be using salt forms of semaglutide, including semaglutide sodium and semaglutide acetate. The salt forms are different active ingredients than are used in the FDA-approved drugs, which contain the base form of semaglutide. Products containing these salts, such as semaglutide sodium and semaglutide acetate, have not been shown to be safe and effective. See Medications Containing Semaglutide Marketed for Type 2 Diabetes or Weight Loss, available at https://www.fda.gov/drugs/postmarket-drug-safety-information-patients-and-providers/medications-containing-semaglutide-marketed-type-2-diabetes-or-weight-loss.