NHS obesity drug: GPs to offer controversial weight loss jab

The UK Prime Minister has announced that offering drugs to tackle obesity could be a ‘game-changer’ to ease pressure on the NHS, however, has he thought the whole plan through?  

Announced today, Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, is set to launch a pilot scheme worth £40m – and due to last two years – to increase access to specialist weight management services. Following this, GPs in England may start offering weight-loss jabs to some patients to reduce obesity-related illnesses and resultant pressure on hospitals.

topless woman with black panty

The pilot is set to examine how GPs could safely prescribe the drugs and how the NHS can provide support in the community or online.

Earlier this year, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) gave approval for the use of wegovy – an appetite suppressant drug – but claimed it should only be made available through specialist services which are largely hospital based. As the drug can largely be accessed through services in hospital, it means only around 35,000 have access, but the government says tens of thousands more could be eligible – although the UK has no supply of the drug yet.

NICE have also claimed wegovy, which is made by Novo Nordisk, could be given to adults with at least one weight-related condition and a body mass index (BMI) score of at least 35.

The weight-related conditions that make people eligible include type two diabetes, prediabetes, high blood pressure, dyslipidaemia, obstructive sleep apnoea, and heart disease.

However, concerns about the injection, which NICE have stated can be accessed for a maximum of two years, have surfaced. Health experts have warned the injection should not be used as a replacement for a healthy diet or exercise.

In addition, recent news has broke that a chatbot used by an eating disorder association has been axed after it was providing harmful advice to people struggling with their body image. This suggests that more talk around a drug that can be used to make people thinner would not be well received by some people.

In a statement about the weight-loss drug, Rishi Sunak said: ‘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.’

According to government figures obesity costs the NHS in England £6.5bn a year, with more than one million hospital admissions linked to obesity in 2019-2020. In addition, the health survey for England in 2021 revealed that 25.9% of adults in England are obese and a further 37.9% are overweight.

Image: Huha Inc.


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