Everything you need to know about 'game-changing' NHS jab WeGovy

NHS to prescribe 'game-changing' weight loss jab WeGovy
-Credit: (Image: PA)

Thousands of people living with obesity in England are expected to be offered a jab on NHS prescription.

Wegovy, also known as semaglutide, works by making people feel full, meaning they eat less and lose weight. Also know as ozempic, it is designed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and is not marketed as a weigh loss drug.

On the manufacturer's website it says: Ozempic® is a medicine for adults with type 2 diabetes that, along with diet and exercise, may improve blood sugar. While not for weight loss, Ozempic® may help you lose some weight.

The "game changer" injection has previously been used by celebrities including Twitter boss Elon Musk. A previous study found people who were given the medicine saw their weight drop by 12% on average after 68 weeks.

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People will only be given Wegovy on prescription as part of a specialist weight management service involving input from several professionals, and for a maximum of two years. It is to be used alongside a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity, stated the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), which approved it.

Nice's Helen Knight said: "For some people losing weight is a real challenge which is why a medicine like semaglutide is a welcome option. It won't be available to everyone. Our committee has made specific recommendations to ensure it remains value for money for the taxpayer, and it can only be used for a maximum of two years."

Who is eligible for Wegovy on the NHS?

Wegovy will be available for people who have a BMI of 35 or more — a classification which means they are morbidly obese. Patients must also have at least one weight-related comorbidity, such as type 2 diabetes, to be eligible.

Adults with a BMI between 30 and 35 could also be recommended the drug if they have been referred for specialist help, according to guidance from NHS watchdog the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Are there side effects?

As with all medications, semaglutide is not entirely risk-free. Users commonly complain of nausea, constipation and diarrhoea, while some also suffer from acid reflux, fatigue and complain that food tastes differently after taking the drug.

It is this side effect that some people credit for further assisting their weight loss — by making their favourite junk food taste bad.

Thyroid cancer, pancreatitis — when the organ becomes inflamed — and kidney failure are rare but serious side effects. Patients have also warned of their face appearing gaunt, exhausted and old — a side effect that has been labelled 'Ozempic face'.

What other drugs are available on the NHS?

Two other drugs are available on the NHS — orlistat and liraglutide. Orlistat is a pill taken up to three times a day that prevents fat being absorbed by the digestive system.

The undigested fat is instead passed out of the body as faeces. While this stops people gaining more weight, it doesn't help them lose it by itself. Side effects include fatty or oily poo, oily discharge from the rectum, and high levels of flatulence.

Liraglutide is an injectable drug administered daily, that works in a similar way to semaglutide by altering the body's metabolism, making the person feel fuller and less hungry. This leads them to eat less and, in theory, lose weight.

Liraglutide is generally only prescribed after a GP refers you to a specialist weight loss management service and when orlistat hasn't worked. Side effects include aches and pains, diarrhoea, fever, frequent urination, and trouble sleeping.

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