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By The Stack World
n an effort to combat obesity-related illnesses and alleviate the strain on hospitals, general practitioners (GPs) in England might soon offer weight-loss injections to certain patients. This approach aims to capitalise on the potential of Wegovy, a drug that has been approved for use in the NHS.
Research indicates that users of Wegovy can achieve a weight loss of over 10% of their body weight, as the drug reduces appetite and promotes a feeling of fullness, resulting in reduced food intake. The drug was originally only prescribed to people with diabetes.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has expressed enthusiasm for this development, describing it as a "game-changer," and has announced a £40 million pilot initiative to enhance access to specialized weight management services.
However, experts caution against viewing these "skinny jabs" as a quick fix or a substitute for adopting a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise. Many celebrities, largely in the US, have been associated with the drug.
“This new pilot will help determine if these medicines can be used safely and effectively in non-hospital settings.”
Although similar injections like Ozempic and Mounjaro, which function similarly to Wegovy but primarily target diabetes treatment, have not yet received NHS approval specifically for weight loss.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the NHS drugs watchdog, permits patients to access Wegovy through specialist weight-management services for a maximum of two years.
Currently, these services are mainly available in hospitals, limiting access to approximately 35,000 individuals. Nevertheless, the government believes that tens of thousands more people could qualify for such services, even though the UK currently lacks a supply of the drug.
The new pilot scheme seeks to investigate the safe prescription of these medications by GPs and explore how the NHS can provide support in community settings or through digital means.
This initiative aligns with the government's broader goal of reducing strain on hospitals. Health Secretary Steve Barclay, speaking to BBC Breakfast, highlights the impact of obesity on rates of cancer and diabetes. “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.”
"Experts caution against viewing these "skinny jabs" as a quick fix or a substitute for adopting a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise."
Estimates indicate that over 12 million adults in England are obese. Some retail pharmacies are poised to offer Wegovy to customers, prescribing and dispensing weekly injections that individuals can administer themselves using pre-filled pen devices.
Like any medication, there are potential side effects and risks associated with Wegovy, including nausea, and upset stomach. NHS medical director Prof Sir Stephen Powis acknowledges that pharmaceutical treatments provide a novel approach to assisting individuals in achieving a healthier weight. Adding, in a quote to the BBC: “this new pilot will help determine if these medicines can be used safely and effectively in non-hospital settings.”
NHS England is currently in negotiations with the manufacturer to secure long-term supplies at prices that offer value for taxpayers.
For the first time, “weight-loss” injections have been approved for use outside of hospitals in a new £40 million pilot
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