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Weight loss drug Wegovy now available in the UK

The weight loss drug semaglutide (Wegovy) has now launched in the UK in a ‘controlled and limited’ capacity, according to the drug’s manufacturer, Novo Nordisk.

The weight loss drug semaglutide (Wegovy) has now launched in the UK in a ‘controlled and limited’ capacity, according to the drug’s manufacturer, Novo Nordisk.

For now, the treatment will only be available to patients in specialist NHS weight management services who meet eligibility criteria, or privately through prescription.

In total, around 35,000 people could be eligible for treatment with Wegovy, but this number could rise further following the government’s two-year pilot which will look at how Wegovy could be prescribed outside of weight management services.

Worldwide shortages of weight loss/diabetes drugs

Historically, semaglutide has been used to treat patients with type 2 diabetes. The drug is a type of glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist (or GLP-1 RA), which mimics the GLP-1 hormone, prompting the body to produce more insulin which reduces blood sugar.

However, GLP-1 RAs also create a feeling of fullness and help to regulate appetite, which is why these drugs are now being used as a weight loss medication.

This realisation, however, led to a huge surge in the number of prescriptions for semaglutide and other weight loss drugs, which has caused shortages worldwide.

Hope that the launch of Wegovy will allow diabetes patients to access medication more easily

The government says currently, there are no known supply issues with Wegovy, however, there are supply issues for Ozempic, the same drug sold under a different brand, which is primarily utilised by type 2 diabetes patients.

The government is now urging healthcare professionals to ensure they are only prescribing Ozempic for its licensed indication – type 2 diabetes treatment.

Diabetes UK says it hopes the launch of Wegovy will “ease some of the pressures on the supply of GLP-1 medications by offering an option that is expressly for weight loss and therefore reducing off-label prescription of GLP-1 drugs licensed for type 2 diabetes.”

“Drugs such as Wegovy are an important and valid weight management tool for those living with or at risk of type 2 diabetes, and it is our view that people should be supported to find the approach that is most appropriate for them – whether that involves medication, dietary changes or bariatric surgery – with the wraparound support of weight loss management services,” the company added.

Government closely monitoring supply levels

The Department of Health and Social Care is now closely monitoring the supply situation for Ozempic and has provided comprehensive advice to the NHS on how to manage supply issues with this medicine.

“We expect all providers of healthcare services, whether NHS or private, and all those with responsibility for prescribing to take appropriate account of national guidance such as National Patient Safety Alerts and Medicine Supply Notifications,” a government spokesperson said.

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