Weight loss wonder jab
Now on the NHS, dose that slashes your diabetes risk too
TENS of thousands of NHS patients will be helped to lose weight by a ‘game-changing’ drug.
Watchdogs have approved the weekly jab in what experts say is a pivotal moment in the fight against obesity.
Sold under the brand name Wegovy, semaglutide works by hijacking the brain to suppress appetite and reduce calorie intake. In trials patients lost around 12 per cent of their body weight – and more than halved their risk of type 2 diabetes.
Made by Novo Nordisk, a giant Danish drugs firm, it costs £73 a month.
It could be used instead of gastric band or other weight loss surgery, reducing the burden on hospitals and saving the health service millions of pounds.
The drugs rationing body NICE is recommending its use by people with a BMI of 30 and above, as part of a weight-loss programme of diet and exercise.
‘It’s a game- changer and so successful that Hollywood A-listers are now using it to slim and show off their figures,’ said Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum.
He added: ‘The real danger is that there may not be enough to go round in the short term. You should not be using it just to lose a few pounds because that might jeopardise the health of those who really need it, those who have diabetes type 2 and morbid obesity.’ The jabs, which will initially
‘Using it to show off their figures’
help around 35,000 people a year, could be available within weeks as part of NHS specialist weight management services.
The drugs suppress the appetite by mimicking glucagon-like peptide-1, a hormone released after eating to make you feel full.
Adults with a BMI classed as obese and at least one weight-related illness such as high blood pressure could qualify.
The jabs are self-administered once a week with pre-filled pens, for a minimum of 16 weeks. Patients can initially be placed on the drug for a maximum of two years, although regulators say there is scope to increase this if real-world data shows it continues to be effective.
Around 19million people in England are obese, lumbering the NHS with costs of more than £6billion a year.
Trials found patients given the weekly jab lost a tenth of their body weight in just 20 weeks and consumed a third fewer calories. Overweight and obese participants given regular doses also saw their odds of suffering type 2 diabetes fall by up to 61 per cent.
Alex Miras, an obesity expert at Ulster University, said: ‘This decision made by NICE is a pivotal moment for the treatment of people living with obesity. The weight loss that can be achieved with this safe medication is substantial and likely to lead to the improvement of obesity related complications in a large number of patients.’
The drug is already given at much lower doses to treat patients with type 2 diabetes, under the brand name Ozempic.
However it has side effects and users commonly complain of nausea, constipation and diarrhoea. It has also been known to make food less appealing, potentially ruining the enjoyment of eating altogether. Helen Knight, director of medicines evaluation at NICE, said: ‘ For some people losing weight is a real challenge which is why a medicine like semaglutide is a welcome option.’ Dr Duane Mellor, a dietitian at Aston University’s medical school, said the medicine was not a complete cure in itself and patients had to make other changes to thei lifestyles.
He added: ‘It is important to remember that semaglutide works alongside and supports healthy lifestyle changes and when people are being offered semaglutide that they are also given ongoing support to make changes and maintain these changes with respect to diet and lifestyle.
‘As all individuals initially being offered semaglutide via the NHS will be supported by specialist weight management services this should include support from a specialist dietitian.’