UK gov expands weight-loss drug program to fight obesity
The UK government announces a new pilot scheme aimed at alleviating waiting lists at the NHS and expanding the target group of the Wegovy weight-loss drug to reduce obesity rates in the country.
The UK government has announced a new pilot scheme aimed at reducing waiting lists and tackling obesity-related health issues in the National Health Service (NHS).
The initiative will allow doctors in the state-run health service to prescribe weight-loss drugs to a larger number of obese individuals in order to tackle the disease that is overburdening the UK health care system.
With obesity being a leading cause of serious conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, the government hopes that the two-year pilot program will alleviate the strain on the underfunded NHS.
According to a 2019 health survey, over 12 million adults in England, accounting for 28 percent of the population, are obese, while an additional 16 million (36%) were overweight.
The UK government has already implemented measures like calorie labeling on menus and regulations on the placement of unhealthy foods in stores to fight the disease.
"Obesity puts huge pressure on the NHS," UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated as he revealed the new £40 million ($50 million) pilot.
Sunak believes that this approach will be transformative in addressing obesity-related health conditions. Clinical trials have demonstrated that these treatments when combined with diet, exercise, and behavioral support, can help obese adults lose up to 15 percent of their body weight.
Earlier this year, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) approved the use of the appetite suppressant Wegovy, but its availability was limited to specialist services primarily based in hospitals.
Currently, adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 35 and a weight-related health condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, are eligible for Wegovy, making approximately 35,000 people eligible for the drug. The two-year pilot program aims to expand the target group of the weight-loss drug, potentially reaching tens of thousands more individuals.
The pilot scheme will explore the safe provision of approved drugs to a larger population by expanding specialist weight management services beyond hospital settings. This includes examining how general practitioners (GPs) can prescribe weight-loss drugs safely and how the NHS can offer support in the community or through digital platforms. However, Downing Street cautioned that NHS England is still in negotiations to secure a long-term supply of these products at prices that offer value for taxpayers.