Weight-loss jabs offered by GPs may ease NHS obesity crisis

Weight-loss injections may soon be offered to some patients by GPs in England as a means to combat obesity-related illnesses and alleviate pressure on hospitals. The drug Wegovy has been approved for use within the NHS after studies indicated that users could lose over 10% of their body weight. Wegovy works by suppressing appetite, causing users to feel full and consume less food. Chancellor Rishi Sunak referred to the drug as a potential “game-changer” while announcing a £40 million pilot scheme aimed at increasing access to specialist weight management services.

However, experts caution that “skinny jabs,” which are popular in the US and endorsed by numerous celebrities, are not a quick solution and should not replace a healthy diet and exercise. In clinical trials, users often regained weight after discontinuing treatment. Other similar injections, such as Ozempic and Mounjaro, designed to treat diabetes, have not yet been approved for NHS use specifically for weight loss.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states that patients can access Wegovy for a maximum of two years through specialist weight-management services. Currently, these services are primarily hospital-based, with only around 35,000 individuals having access. The government, however, believes that tens of thousands more could be eligible, despite the UK not yet having a supply of the drug. The new scheme will explore how GPs can safely prescribe such drugs and how the NHS can provide support in the community or digitally, ultimately aiming to reduce pressure on hospitals and offer patients convenient access to care.

Sunak commented on the issue: “Obesity puts huge pressure on the NHS. Using the latest drugs to support people to lose weight will be a game-changer by helping to tackle dangerous obesity-related health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.” It is estimated that over 12 million adults in England are obese.

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Some High Street chemists are also set to sell Wegovy to customers, prescribing and dispensing a weekly jab that can be self-administered using pre-filled pen devices. However, as with any medication, there can be side-effects and risks, including nausea, upset stomach, bloating, and gas.

NHS Medical Director Professor Sir Stephen Powis stated: “Pharmaceutical treatments offer a new way of helping people with obesity gain a healthier weight, and this new pilot will help determine if these medicines can be used safely and effectively in non-hospital settings as well as a range of other interventions we have in place.” He added that NHS England is in negotiations with the manufacturer to secure long-term supplies at prices representing value for money for taxpayers.

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Jamie Cartwright

Jamie is a keen traveler, writer, and (English) teacher. A few years after finishing school in the East Mids, UK, he went traveling around South America and Asia. Several teaching and writing jobs, he found himself at The Thaiger where he mostly covers international news and events.

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