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Government ploughs £40m into semaglutide GP pilot


Government ploughs £40m into semaglutide GP pilot

The Government has announced a new two-year pilot backed by “up to £40m” in investment to explore ways to make obesity drugs more accessible to patients outside of hospital settings.

The pilot will focus on semaglutide (Wegovy) – an injectable type 2 diabetes drug recommended for weight loss by NICE earlier this year for adults with a BMI of 35 or over and a weight-related health condition – and potentially other medicines such as Tirzepatide, another diabetes medicine that could receive a licence for weight loss “in the coming months” pending clinical trials.

This comes amid reports of global shortages of semaglutide. Manufacturer Novo Nordisk posted a statement on its US website on May 4 saying that while it was “actively producing and shipping all dose strengths of Wegovy” there are limited supplies of the 0.25mg, 0.5mg and 1mg dose strengths, and that this is expected to continue until September.

A Novo Nordisk spokesperson told Pharmacy Network News earlier today: “We have a long-term commitment to improving the lives of people living with obesity and changing how the world sees, prevents and treats obesity. At this time, Wegovy is not available in the UK.”

Commenting on how it plans to expand access to weight loss medicines, 10 Downing St said the pilot would involve “expanding specialist weight management services outside of hospital settings”. This would include “looking at how GPs could safely prescribe these drugs and how the NHS can provide support in the community or digitally,” which the Government claims would help to reduce pressure on hospital services.

At present, NICE recommends that Wegovy should only be supplied through specialist weight management services, which are mainly based in hospitals and are accessible to “around 35,000 people” according to the Government, which wants to expand eligibility to “thousands more”.

The Government pointed to clinical trial findings indicating that taking weight loss drugs alongside lifestyle changes could help people lose “up to 15 per cent of their body weight after one year,” with some losing weight “within the first month of treatment”.

Prime minister 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 on hospitals, supporting people to live healthier and longer lives, and helping to deliver on my priority to cut NHS waiting lists.”

Health secretary Steve Barclay said: “Obesity costs the NHS around £6.5bn a year and is the second biggest cause of cancer.

“This next generation of obesity drugs have the potential to help people lose significant amounts of weight, when prescribed with exercise, diet and behavioural support. 

“Tackling obesity will help reduce pressure on the NHS and cut waiting times, one of the Government’s priorities, and this pilot will help people live longer, healthier lives.”

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