Wegovy: NHS weight loss jab already having supply issues as private clinics stockpile

The decision to make a potentially "game-changing" weight loss injection available on the NHS puts diabetes patients at risk, senior doctors have told Sky News.

Thousands of people living with obesity in England are set to be offered Wegovy, also known as semaglutide, on prescription after health officials approved its use for weight loss.

But the "pivotal moment" for weight loss has already been hit by supply chain issues and it is currently unclear whether the company that makes the jab, Novo Nordisk, will be able to adequately supply the NHS.

The NHS will only be able to roll out the drug within 90 days of it being made commercially available to the health service by the manufacturer - something that has not yet happened.

Semaglutide is also found in the diabetes medicine Ozempic, but, unlike Ozempic - which is prescribed to those living with diabetes - Wegovy is recommended specifically for weight loss.

However, senior diabetes doctors have told Sky News that patients are now at risk of missing out on vital medication as private clinics stockpile semaglutide following a number of celebrity endorsements.

'For me, this is literally going to change everything'

Sarah Le Brocq, an advocate and director at All About Obesity, has struggled with her weight for most of life and said for people like her this would be a "game changer".

"Obesity is a chronic long-term condition and it's a relapsing condition so you lose weight and you put it back on again and at the moment, there are very few treatment options for people living with obesity," she told Sky News.

"For me, this is literally going to change everything, because what it's doing is changing the physiological makeup of my body. So it's changing my hormones, it's changing the way that the signals are going to my brain.

"It's changing the way I'm going to think around food, for instance, and then the way that my body thinks around food, and that's going to make such a huge impact on just general life.

"Because what it's going to do is make my body function like someone that doesn't live with obesity."

Ms Le Brocq has gone to extreme lengths to try and lose weight, including competing on a weight loss TV show: "I went from doing no exercise to completing an Olympic distance triathlon at the end of the programme, and lost all that weight in the meantime.

"So that was quite significant. But obviously, the weight slowly has come back on because, with obesity, that's what happens."

But this could form a more long-term change, she said: "I'm desperate to get my hands on this drug."

'A chance to press the reset button'

Lord Bethell, a former health minister, said the injection would give people the opportunity to "press the reset button and to work a different way to get their weight down" and address any health issues.

But he added the NHS will "need to iron out supply chain issues" as well as work out "cost issues".

The drug, he added, should only be used "in partnership with a clinical team ... this isn't a drug to be used for people trying to look good on the beach".

He said that while it is "fantastic" and a "positive break through" it isn't a solution that will "solve all the big problems".

How does the weight-loss jab work?

Patients on the NHS will inject themselves weekly using a pen and the drug works by making people feel full, meaning they eat less and lose weight.

It suppresses the appetite by mimicking the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) which is released after eating. Patients will only be able to take it for a two-year period.

A previous study found people who were given the medicine saw their weight drop by 12% on average after 68 weeks, however, side effects included nausea and diarrhoea - but these were typically mild to moderate in severity and subsided with time.

Last October, billionaire Elon Musk was asked by a Twitter user on the platform what his secret was to looking "fit, ripped, and healthy" to which he replied "fasting" and "Wegovy".

Rumours swirled that reality TV star Kim Kardashian used the drug to fit into Marilyn Monroe's dress, which she has denied.

Who is eligible for Wegovy?

Adults with at least one weight-related condition and a body mass index (BMI) score of at least 35 will be eligible for the drug.

Such conditions include type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, high blood pressure, dyslipidaemia (unbalanced or unhealthy cholesterol levels), obstructive sleep apnoea, and heart disease.

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Those with a BMI of 30 and over may be able to access the drug in some cases.

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, as stated the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), which approved it.

Nice's programme director for 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."

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But Dr Stephen Lawrence, associate clinical professor at the University of Warwick, cautioned: "It is important to note, however, that this medication is not a quick fix or a replacement for following a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular physical activity and healthy eating."

In February, it emerged that some high street chemists in England will prescribe the drug, if suitable, through their online doctor services.