Drugs Health Pharma

Novo Nordisk’s weight-loss drug Wegovy enters the UK market 

Novo Nordisk, a Danish drugmaker, announced its weight-loss medicine, Wegovy, will be available in the UK in a “controlled and limited” manner.

HQ Team

September 4, 2023: Novo Nordisk, a Danish drugmaker, announced its weight-loss medicine, Wegovy, will be available in the UK in a “controlled and limited” manner.

The drug, also known as semaglutide, will be prescribed through specialist National Health Service weight management services along with a reduced-calorie diet and exercise, according to a company statement.

It will also be obtainable privately through a registered healthcare professional.

The National Institute for Care and Excellence (NICE) gave Wegovy the green light for NHS use earlier this year. According to the body’s guidance, the drug should be used for a maximum of two years.

The patient must have at least one weight-related medical condition and a body mass index of at least 35.0 kg/m2, or a BMI of 30.0 kg/m2 to 34.9 kg/m2 and meet NICE’s criteria for referral to specialist weight management services.

Supply constraints

The medicine has been sold in the US, Denmark, Norway and Germany.

Wegovy has been facing supply constraints due to soaring demand from nations where it has been sold, and that is putting pressure on the company to increase production.

 “As we expect supply to be constrained for the foreseeable future, a proportion of available supply will be allocated for use only within the NHS to allow healthcare professionals to implement NICE guidance.”

We are closely monitoring Wegovy demand and are working with regulators and providers to ensure people living with obesity can have access to and remain on treatment.”

Wegovy would help provide “an additional option to support people living with obesity” in the UK and was looking forward to working with healthcare providers to achieve this, according to the statement.

Tackle obesity

In June 2023, the Department of Health announced a two-year pilot to tackle obesity, which explored how Wegovy could be prescribed outside of these services, which are largely hospital-based.

The NICE recommendations meant that about 35,000 people would have access to Wegovy. 

To make it available to more people who could be eligible, the pilot explored how general practitioners could safely offer Wegovy, and how the NHS can provide support in the community or digitally.

Wegovy, a semaglutide injection, is indicated as an adjunct to a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity for weight management. It is recommended for weight management in people with or without type 2 diabetes.

It includes weight loss and weight maintenance in adults with an initial body mass index of more than 30 kg/m2 —obesity — or more than 27 kg/m2 to less than 30 kg/m2, which falls in the overweight category.

One comorbidity

 The patient must have at least one weight-related comorbidity, according to the company statement.

“We are dedicated to bringing additional treatment options to people living with obesity and share the government’s ambition to make obesity care accessible where there is a high unmet medical need,” according to the statement.

Wegovy, Saxenda and Orlistat are the only medications that are licensed and approved for weight loss in the UK.

The FDA approved Wegovy in 2021. About 70% of American adults are obese or overweight. 

Obesity or overweight is a serious health issue associated with some leading causes of death, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and is linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer. 

Losing 5% to 10% of body weight through diet and exercise has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in adult patients with obesity or overweight.

Reduce heart attack risk

In a five-year clinical trial, Novo Nordisk found the drug could cut the risk of a heart attack or stroke in obese people with cardiovascular disease by a fifth. 

The trial participants totalled 17,604 adults over the age of 45 from across 41 countries. Each had a body mass index of more than 27 and established cardiovascular disease, with no history of diabetes.

The double-blinded trial compared subcutaneous once-weekly semaglutide 2.4 mg with placebo as an adjunct to the standard of care for the prevention of major adverse cardiovascular events over a period of up to five years.

“In the trial, semaglutide 2.4 mg appeared to have a safe and well-tolerated profile in line with previous semaglutide 2.4 mg trials,” according to a company statement in August 2023.

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