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What is Wegovy, the controversial new ‘Hollywood’ weight loss drug?

A weight loss drug described as a “game changer” will soon be available on the NHS for some people living with obesity.

Health officials have confirmed that semaglutide, marketed as Wegovy, is to be made available on prescription after being approved by the medicines regulator.

What is Wegovy?

Wegovy is an appetite suppressant drug that has gained popularity in the US.

The drug, which makes people feel fuller when they eat, is administered by an injection or pen, similar to that used by diabetics, on a weekly basis.

Medics say it can be effective in helping people to achieve sustained weight loss when used alongside a reduced calorie count and regular exercise.

A previous study found that people who were given the drug saw their weight drop by 12 per cent on average after 68 weeks.

Who will get it?

In the NHS, the drug will be restricted to those being treated at weight management clinics and who are classed as being at the top end of the obesity scale.

People who have other weight-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease will also be available.

Thousands are expected to be offered the appetite suppressant Wegovy on prescription after the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) gave it the green light for NHS use.

In February it emerged that some high-street chemists in England will prescribe the drug, if suitable, through their online doctor services.

The drug will be available to NHS patients soon when the launch of the drug in England is confirmed by manufacturer Novo Nordisk.

What are the side effects?

A previous study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that nausea and diarrhoea were the most common side effects but these were “typically transient and mild-to-moderate in severity and subsided with time”.

Wegovy is administered by an injection or pen, similar to that used by diabetics, on a weekly basis


Why is it controversial?

Experts described the decision as a “pivotal moment” for the treatment of people living with obesity but others warned that the drug is not a “quick fix”.

It will only be offered to patients on the NHS for two years – a decision that has been criticised by some because there is no data on long-term use.

Studies, however, have shown that people put weight back on once they stop taking the drug.

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.

“It won’t be available to everyone. Our committee has made specific recommendations to ensure it remains value for money for the taxpayer, and it can only be used for a maximum of two years.

“We are pleased to finally publish our final guidance on semaglutide which will mean some people will be able to access this much talked about drug on the NHS.”

Dr Stephen Lawrence, associate clinical professor at the University of Warwick, warned that the drug is not a “quick fix” for weight loss or a replacement for leading a healthy lifestyle.

When used in accordance with the prescribed guidelines, it promotes weight loss in a safe and effective way for most people.

“It is important to note, however, that this medication is not a quick fix or a replacement for following a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular physical activity and healthy eating.

“It should therefore only be offered following assessment of the person taking the medication and as part of a programme to establish a healthy lifestyle.”

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