NHS weight loss jab: what is semaglutide injection, and who will be offered it?

Semaglutide is a drug that helps to suppress the appetite and makes people feel fuller so they eat less

Thousands of obese people could soon be offered a weekly fat-busting injection on the NHS to help shed weight.

The treatment, called semaglutide, has been approved for use by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), with the watchdog recommending it be made available on the health service.

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Adults with at least one weight-related condition and a BMI of 35 may be offered the drug (Photo: Adobe)

What is semaglutide?

Semaglutide, also known as Wegovy and made by Novo Nordisk, is a drug that helps to suppress the appetite.

It mimics the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that is released after eating.

When it is injected, via a pen injector, it makes people feel fuller so they eat less and feel less hungry, and lose weight as a result.

Nice said that people who received weekly injections of the drug in trials saw their weight drop by 12% on average after 68 weeks, alongside a healthy diet and exercise.

Clinical trial evidence shows that people lose more weight with semaglutide together with supervised weight loss coaching than with support alone.

Who will be offered the treatment?

Nice has issued draft guidance recommending semaglutide for adults with at least one weight-related condition and a body mass index (BMI) of at least 35.

In some cases, those with a BMI of 30 may also be able to access the drug.

Anyone from a south Asian, Chinese, and black African or Caribbean background will also be able to access the drug at a lower BMI and can be advised by a medic.

Weight-related conditions that make obese people eligible for the drug include:

  • high blood pressure
  • dyslipidaemia (unbalanced or unhealthy cholesterol levels)
  • obstructive sleep apnoea
  • heart disease

People will only be given semaglutide on prescription as part of a specialist weight management service involving input from several professionals, and for a maximum of two years.

The 2019 Health Survey for England estimated that 28% of adults in England were obese and a further 36% were overweight, costing the NHS and wider economy billions of pounds a year.

Helen Knight, programme director in the centre for health technology evaluation at Nice, said: “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.

“It is a lifelong condition that needs medical intervention, has psychological and physical effects, and can affect quality of life.”

The list price of semaglutide 0.25mg, 0.5mg and 1mg is £73.25 per pack (four pre-filled pens excluding VAT), and the dosage schedule for patients is put at an induction dose of 0.25mg, increasing every four weeks to a maintenance dose of 2.4mg.

Nice’s approval is subject to consultation.

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