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New management: Promising drug for people living with obesity

NICE recommends appetite-suppressing drugs which can reduce a patient’s by more than 10%

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued draft guidance recommending semaglutide to adults with one or more weight-related conditions and a body mass index (BMI) of at least 35kg/m2. The drug–also known as Wegovy–has also been recommended to people with a BMI of 30.0kg/m2 to 34.9kg/m2.

Thousands of people living with obesity are predicted to benefit from the drug, which has helped patients use it to reduce their weight by more than 10%. The STEP 1 clinical evaluation, a randomised double-blind trial, demonstrated that participants taking semaglutide lost on average 12% more of their body weight compared with placebo.

“We know that management of overweight and obesity is one of the biggest challenges our health service is facing with nearly two-thirds of adults either overweight or obese,” said Helen Knight, programme director in the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE. “It is a lifelong condition that needs medical intervention, has psychological and physical effects and can affect the quality of life.”

Semaglutide can only be prescribed as part of a specialist weight management service with multidisciplinary input and for a maximum of two years, with patients able to inject themselves once a week with pens pre-filled with semaglutide.

The drug works by suppressing appetite by mimicking a hormone that is released after eating, reducing overall calorie intake.

Helen Knight continued: “In recent years NICE has been able to recommend a new line of pharmaceutical treatments which have shown that those people using them, alongside changes to their diet and exercise, have been able to reduce their weight.”

The 2019 Health Survey for England estimated 28% of adults in England were obese and a further 36% were overweight. Government estimates indicate that the current costs of obesity in the UK are £6.1bn to the NHS and £27bn to wider society.