Weight loss injection Wegovy to be offered through UK’s NHS soon

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Novo Nordisk A/S’s blockbuster obesity drug Wegovy will soon be offered to patients through England’s National Health Service after the country’s health-cost regulator recommended the weekly injection.

Wegovy, which can help people lose more than 10 percent of their total body weight, will be made available through the NHS’s specialist weight management service, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said in a statement.

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The drug is endorsed along with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity for adults who have at least one weight-related co-morbidity and a high body mass index.

The health professionals that prescribe Wegovy will also monitor the drug’s potential side-effects, NICE said in the statement.

The main side effects reported by patients during clinical trials were gastrointestinal disorders including nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting.

Demand for Wegovy has been soaring and companies including Amgen Inc., Eli Lilly & Co. and Pfizer Inc. are rapidly gearing up to enter the market for medications for obesity. It’s estimated that 28 percent of adults in England are obese and a further 36 percent are overweight, according to the 2019 Health Survey for England.

The current costs of obesity in the UK are £6.1 billion ($7.2 billion) to the NHS and about £27 billion to wider society, government estimates show.

Still, production problems have held back Wegovy sales in the US and the Danish drugmaker has had to delay its entry of the appetite suppressant into most European markets. The final guidance by NICE wasn’t published until Wednesday because the product had not yet been scheduled to launch in England, it said. Novo is doubling spending on plants and equipment for a second year to boost production as it expects periodic shortages of drugs in some markets.

“It won’t be available to everyone, said Helen Knight, the director of medicines evaluation at NICE. “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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