NHS gets limited stock of Wegovy weight-loss job
Some NHS patients could be prescribed the Wegovy weight-loss drug after limited stock arrived in the UK.
The injection will be offered by some specialist NHS weight-loss management services, as well as some private clinics.
As doses become available, it could help tens of thousands of patients in England, the NHS said.
There has been a global shortage of the jabs, which blunt appetite. The cost to the health service is unclear.
What is Wegovy and does it work?
Research suggests the treatment can help people shed more than 10% of their body weight, by making users feel they are already full so they eat less.
Experts warn the jabs – widely used in the US and endorsed by many celebrities – are not a quick fix nor a substitute for a healthy diet and exercise.
In trials, users often put weight back on after stopping treatment.
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It is not clear how much stock the NHS will be able to access or what it will cost but the health service often negotiates a confidential discount with drug manufacturers. The list price for a month’s supply ranges from £73.25 to £175.80 depending on the dose. Users inject themselves once a week.
Some high street pharmacies, as well as private medical providers, have said they plan to sell it to customers too, offering a full prescribing and dispensing service.
The Danish maker of Wegovy, Novo Nordisk, said it would continue to restrict global supplies as it works to ramp up manufacturing.
It said in a statement there would be a controlled and limited launch: “As we expect supply to be constrained for the foreseeable future, a proportion of available supply will be allocated for use only within the NHS.
“We will continue to work with healthcare professionals to help ensure that patients with the highest unmet medical need are prioritised.
“We are closely monitoring demand and are working with regulators and providers to ensure people living with obesity can have access to and remain on the treatment.”
NHS guidelines say patients can only access Wegovy, which contains the drug semaglutide, if they are significantly overweight and have weight-related health problems.
Eligible patient can be prescribed it for a maximum of two years via specialist weight-management services, alongside diet and exercise advice.
These services are largely hospital based, meaning only about 35,000 have access, but the government says tens of thousands more people could be eligible if a new scheme to let GPs prescribe it works.
An NHS spokesperson said: “Despite global supply constraints, NHS England is taking action to begin implementing NICE guidance for weight management, while at the same time working to restore supplies of this class of drug for people with type 2 diabetes.
“Around 50,000 eligible patients in England could be prescribed Wegovy through NHS specialist weight management services, that are able to provide appropriate multidisciplinary care.”