What is the new wonder drug for weight loss?

An appetite suppressant will soon be available on prescription through the NHS.

But who will benefit from the weight loss drug and is it all there is to it?

– What is the medicine?

Semaglutide, also known as Wegovy, has been hailed as a “game changer”.

The drug, manufactured by the Danish company Novo Nordisk, is an appetite suppressant administered through a weekly injection.

Patients inject themselves weekly with the drug, which mimics the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) released after eating.

This makes people feel full, which means they eat less and lose weight.

A previous study found that people who took the drug saw their weight drop by an average of 12% after 68 weeks.

– Who will be eligible to use it?

Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) says the drug will only be offered on the NHS to adults with at least one weight-related condition and a body mass index (BMI) score of at least 35.

Weight-related conditions that make obese people eligible include type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, high blood pressure, dyslipidemia (imbalanced or unhealthy cholesterol levels), obstructive sleep apnea, and heart disease.

In some cases, people with a BMI of 30 or more may be able to access the drug, which is administered through a pen injection device.

This decision by Nice is a pivotal moment in the treatment of people living with obesity.

Alex Miras, professor of endocrinology at Ulster University

People will only receive Wegovy with a prescription as part of a specialist weight management service which includes input from a number of professionals, and for a maximum of two years.

It should be used alongside a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity, Nice said.

Thousands of people will be eligible when the drug becomes available.

But when the drug is available for private purchase – several UK pharmacies have already said they will offer the drug once it becomes available – the rules can be slightly different.

The patient information leaflet for the drug states that it can be used in anyone with a BMI score above 30 – with or without other health conditions, and in people with a BMI score of 27 to 30 who also have another health condition associated with weight.

Nice said its terms for the NHS bid represented “value for money for the taxpayer”.

Which celebrities are believed to use it?

The drug is said to be preferred by some celebrities.

When asked about his physique, Twitter owner Elon Musk publicly said his secret was “fasting and Wegovy.” Reality star Kim Kardashian is also reported to have used the drug.

When will it be available in the UK?

There are reports of shortages of the drug due to its growing popularity, but the manufacturer is said to be increasing production to meet the increase in demand. Novo Nordisk said in a statement that it was working to get the drug to the UK “as soon as possible”.

Once commercially available, the NHS has three months to implement the Nice recommendations.

– Are there any side effects?

A previous study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that nausea and diarrhea were the most common side effects, but these were “usually transient and mild to moderate in severity and resolved over time.”

– What did the experts say?

Academics described the decision as a key development in the treatment of people living with obesity, but others warned that the drug was not a “quick fix”.

Alex Miras, professor of endocrinology at Ulster University, said: “This decision by Nice is a watershed moment for the treatment of people living with obesity.”

And Nick Finer, emeritus clinical professor at the National Center for Cardiovascular Prevention and Outcomes at UCL, added: “The efficacy of semaglutide is a real game-changer for the medical treatment of obesity, a chronic disease that shortens life through its many complications.”

However, Dr Stephen Lawrence, associate clinical professor at the University of Warwick, warned that the drug “is not a quick fix or replacement for a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular physical activity and a healthy diet”.

Eating disorder charity Beat raised concerns about the drug.

Tom Quinn, Beat’s director of external affairs, said: “Weight loss drugs such as semaglutide can be extremely attractive to people with eating disorders as they appear to provide quick results.

“However, these drugs can be very dangerous as they can exacerbate harmful thoughts and behaviors for those who are unwell, or contribute to the development of an eating disorder for someone who is already vulnerable.”

– How much will it cost?

The list price of semaglutide 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg and 1 mg is £73.25 per pack (four pre-filled pens excluding VAT).

The dosage regimen for patients is set at an induction dose of 0.25 mg, which is increased every four weeks to a maintenance dose of 2.4 mg.

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