UK Unlocks Wegovy: The Game-Changer in Weight Loss Medication

Man measuring his waist

The injection is recommended for two years. Credit: Jcomp/Freepik

Wegovy, the weight-loss medication, is now accessible in the UK through a controlled and limited introduction.

This medication, also referred to as semaglutide, will be prescribed in conjunction with specialised NHS weight management services, incorporating a reduced calorie diet and exercise regimen. It was available from Monday, September 4.

Eligible individuals must have a body mass index (BMI) exceeding 30 and at least one weight-related co-existing condition.

Earlier this year, the National Institute for Care and Excellence (NICE) granted approval for Wegovy’s utilisation within the NHS, with their guidance stipulating a maximum two-year usage period.

Trials of Wegovy, which is injected weekly, found those who used it lost around 12 per cent of their body weight, stated NICE.

Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Wegovy, expressed its belief that the drug’s introduction in the UK will offer an additional avenue of support for individuals grappling with obesity.

In June, the government unveiled a £40 million pilot initiative to expand access to weight-loss injections as part of the effort to combat obesity.

Rishi Sunak remarked at the time that this drug could be a transformative factor in this endeavour.

The Prime Minister emphasised the substantial strain that obesity places on the NHS and asserted that employing cutting-edge medications to assist people in losing weight would be a game-changing development.

This approach is anticipated to alleviate the burden on hospitals and enhance the overall health and longevity of individuals while addressing the priority of reducing NHS waiting lists.

Nevertheless, Novo Nordisk has confirmed that semaglutide is currently in limited supply and expects this constraint to persist for the foreseeable future.

A portion of the available supply has been allocated to NHS services.

This development follows a five-year study by Novo Nordisk, known as the Select trial, which revealed that the drug could reduce the risk of heart attacks or strokes in obese individuals with cardiovascular disease by one-fifth.

The study encompassed 17,604 adults aged over 45 from 41 different countries, all with a BMI exceeding 27 and established cardiovascular disease but no history of diabetes.

Does Wegovy have any side effects?

Nice has said it will be approving the injectables for a two-year course of treatment at the most, with side effects minimal when used correctly.

Mild nausea, diarrhoea and headaches are some of the side effects but they were found to be “mild to moderate in severity and subsided with time”.

Experiencing suicidal thoughts is reportedly listed as a side effect on the leaflet.

When will Wegovy be available in the UK?

The injection was available in the UK from Monday, September 4 on the NHS, though it is in limited supply.

It is already available privately through pharmacists and costs on average £130 a month, reported The Evening Standard.

The 2019 Health Survey for England estimated 28 per cent of adults in England were living with obesity and a further 36 per cent were overweight.

Government estimates indicate that the current costs of obesity in the UK are £6.1 billion to the NHS and £27 billion to wider society.

Are you for or against the injections, and why?

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Written by

Jo Pugh

Jo Pugh is a journalist based in the Costa Blanca North. Originally from London, she has been involved in journalism and photography for 20 years. She has lived in Spain for 12 years, and is a dedicated and passionate writer.