This makes people feel full
The Wegovy weight loss drug will soon launch in the UK, being made available through the NHS.
Semaglutide, also known as Wegovy, is a drug which suppresses appetite.
It is reportedly popular with celebrities in the USA, with Elon Musk and Kim Kardashian thought to have used the drug.
Manufactured by Danish firm Novo Nordisk, the drug is an appetite suppressant which is delivered via a weekly injection.
Patients inject themselves weekly with the drug.
It mimics the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that is released after eating. This makes people feel full, meaning they eat less and lose weight.
A previous study found that people who are given the drug saw their weight decrease by 12% on average after 68 weeks.
Some of the most common side effects were nausea and diarrhoea. But these were “typically transient and mild-to-moderate in severity and subsided with time”.
When the drug becomes available on the NHS, thousands of people will be eligible.
Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says the drug will only be offered on the NHS to adults with at least one weight-related condition and a body mass index (BMI) score of at least 35.
The weight-related conditions that make obese people eligible include type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, high blood pressure, dyslipidaemia (unbalanced or unhealthy cholesterol levels), obstructive sleep apnoea and heart disease.
Many British South Asians could be eligible due to a large proportion having weight-related conditions.
This is mainly due to their diet, which consists of high-calorie and fattening foods.
People will only be given Wegovy on prescription as part of a specialist weight management service involving input from several professionals, and for a maximum of two years.
According to NICE, the drug is to be used alongside a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.
It added that its conditions for the NHS offer represent “value for money for the taxpayer”.
The weight loss drug will also be available to buy privately and a number of UK pharmacies have already said they will offer the drug once it becomes available.
The list price of semaglutide 0.25mg, 0.5mg and 1mg is £73.25 per pack (four pre-filled pens excluding VAT).
The dosage schedule for patients is put at an induction dose of 0.25mg, increasing every four weeks to a maintenance dose of 2.4mg.
According to reports, there are shortages of the drug due to its growing popularity.
But Novo Nordisk is ramping up production to meet the rise in demand. In a statement, the manufacturer said it was working to get the drug to the UK “as soon as possible”.
As soon as it is available commercially, the NHS has three months to implement the NICE recommendations.
The Wegovy weight loss drug has been called a key development in treating obesity. But some academics have stated that the drug is not a “quick fix”.
Alex Miras, professor of endocrinology at Ulster University, said:
“This decision made by NICE is a pivotal moment for the treatment of people living with obesity.”
Nick Finer, honorary clinical professor at the National Centre for Cardiovascular Prevention and Outcomes at UCL, added:
“The efficacy of semaglutide is a true game changer for the medical treatment of obesity, a chronic disease that shortens life through its many complications.”
But Dr Stephen Lawrence, associate clinical professor at the University of Warwick, warned the medication is “not a quick fix or a replacement for following a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular physical activity and healthy eating”.