Weekly weight-loss jabs that are popular with celebrities will soon be made available through high street chemists in England, despite controversy over their use.

Many people struggle to tackle obesity through diet and exercise alone as they often find they regain the weight that they lose.

However a range of drugs, initially used for people with type 2 diabetes, has shown promise in treating obesity, with trials revealing that when combined with supervised weight-loss coaching they help people lose significant amounts of weight.

These drugs, known as GLP-1 analogues, work by mimicking hormones that help people feel full after consuming food.

England’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has already approved the use of two such drugs, liraglutide and the more effective semaglutide, for certain groups of people with obesity.

However semaglutide, which is licensed for weight-loss purposes under the brand name Wegovy, has yet to be provided to the NHS by Novo Nordisk, the company that makes the drug.

Now it has been reported that when Novo Nordisk makes supplies available to the UK, Wegovy will be available via high street chemists including Boots and Superdrug who have said the drug will be prescribed, if suitable, through their online doctor services. The weekly jabs are self-administered using a pre-filled pen.

Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said the weight-loss drugs are promising.

“Having new drugs that can help people shed more than 10kg on average is great – especially if safe, as it currently appears to be. More such drugs are coming rapidly down the line so we may soon see a revolution in how we help treat people living with obesity,” he said.

But, he added: “More research is also needed to understand how best to help people improve lifestyles once they shed large amounts of weight on these drugs, and prevention of obesity by changing the environment must remain the top priority as drugs alone cannot get us there.”

Semaglutide jabs have shot to prominence after reports of their use by celebrities, including Elon Musk, seeking to shed weight.

However experts have raised concerns, including that a lack of Wegovy has resulted in people buying the Ozempic brand of semaglutide for weight-loss purposes, despite Ozempic only being approved for treating type 2 diabetes, jeopardising its availability for people who need it to manage their blood sugar levels.

Experts have also warned that slimming jabs like Wegovy do not tackle the root cause of obesity. What’s more, it is thought the jabs only work for as long as the drug is being taken – a concern as current Nice guidance states semaglutide should be taken for a maximum of two years, leading to concerns that weight could be regained.

Sattar added the high cost of such drugs means they will initially be limited through the NHS to those at highest risk, although that will change over time as costs reduce.

According to Nice guidelines, the list price of semaglutide 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg and 1.0 mg is £73.25 a pack of four pre-filled pens, excluding VAT, although the list price for 1.7 mg and 2.4 mg pens – doses reached in Wegovy’s weigh-lose schedule – has not been released.

Tom Quinn from the eating disorder charity Beat said weight-loss medications such as Wegovy should only be sold under the strictest possible conditions.

“These medications can be very attractive to people with eating disorders as they seemingly offer a ‘quick fix’ solution; however, there is a very high risk of making those affected even more unwell and [they] can further entrench eating disorder thoughts and behaviours,” he said.

A spokesperson at Boots said: “Wegovy is a prescription-only weight loss medicine that can help to regulate appetite and reduce cravings. It can be an effective medicine to achieve sustained weight loss when used alongside a reduced calorie diet, increased physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices.”


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