Dr Amir Khan explains NHS’s Weight Loss Injections

With plans for GPs in England to offer NHS patients weight loss injections, Dr Amir Khan broke down some of the facts behind the drugs.

Dr Amir Khan explains NHS's Weight Loss Injections f

"these drugs were originally used to treat type 2 diabetes"

Dr Amir Khan has explained the facts surrounding the weight loss injections that are set to be rolled out by the NHS.

Wegovy was approved for NHS use after research suggested that users could reduce over 10% of their body weight.

The drug suppresses appetite, so users feel full and eat less.

Rishi Sunak has said it could be a “game-changer” as he announced a £40 million pilot scheme to increase access to specialist weight management services.

But experts warn that they are not a quick fix or substitute for a healthy diet and exercise.

Dr Amir Khan says: “I know weight loss is hard for so many of us, especially when you feel like you’re doing all the right things and I always say have good health, rather than a certain weight as your goal.”

In trials, users often put weight back on after stopping treatment.

There are similar injections such as Ozempic and Mounjaro.

They work in a similar way to Wegovy but are designed to treat diabetes and have not yet been approved by the NHS to use specifically for weight loss.

According to Dr Khan, these injections are part of a larger group of drugs called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists.

He said: “GLP-1 is a hormone that we all make naturally in our bodies and these drugs were originally used to treat type 2 diabetes because GLP-1 stimulates the production of insulin in our pancreas.

“And insulin removes excess sugar from our blood.”

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the NHS drugs watchdog – says patients can access Wegovy for up to two years via specialist weight-management services.

Since they are largely hospital-based, only approximately 35,000 patients have access.

But the government says tens of thousands more people could be eligible.

The new scheme will test how GPs could safely prescribe such drugs and the NHS provide support in the community or digitally, contributing to the government’s wider ambition to reduce pressure on hospitals and give patients access to the care they need where it is most convenient for them.

Mr Sunak said: “Obesity puts huge pressure on the NHS.

“Using the latest drugs to support people to lose weight will be a game-changer by helping to tackle dangerous obesity-related health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.”

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, welcomed the move but said there would need to be “sufficient resource and funding to account for the increased workload”.

She added that there also needs to be enough of the drug available “so as not to raise patients’ expectations, as there may be a significant number of people who would benefit from it”.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay highlighted the impact obesity has on rates of cancer and diabetes.

He continued: “We recognise it’s often a real challenge for people to lose weight or keep the weight off, and that’s why we’re embracing the latest medication and making sure the NHS is at the front of the queue.”

Mr Barclay also said there could be “potential economic benefits” from reducing the number of people absent from work because of health issues linked to obesity.

According to the government, obesity costs the NHS in England £6.5 billion a year.

Estimates suggest over 12 million adults in England are obese.

But like other medications, there are side effects.

Dr Khan said the side effects include “nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, change in bowel habits, feeling bloated”.

He added:

“There are some less common side effects as well such as gallstones, inflammation of the pancreas and even kidney damage.”

NHS medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “Pharmaceutical treatments offer a new way of helping people with obesity gain a healthier weight and this new pilot will help determine if these medicines can be used safely and effectively in non-hospital settings as well as a range of other interventions we have in place.”

He said NHS England was negotiating with the manufacturer to secure long-term supplies at prices representing value for money for taxpayers.

Highlighting that users of weight loss injections need to change their eating habits, Dr Khan added:

“Research shows that if you don’t adjust the way you eat and move while you’re injecting, the weight will just come back on when you stop.

“So if you choose to take these drugs, always choose a reputable clinician to prescribe them for you.”

Dhiren is a journalism graduate with a passion for gaming, watching films and sports. He also enjoys cooking from time to time. His motto is to “Live life one day at a time.”

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