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UK to Offer Weight-loss Drugs via App-based Prescriptions

The United Kingdom has paved the way for easy access to weight-loss jabs by recommending prescriptions through online apps — preparing for the arrival of the new drug Wegovy.

The U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has compiled guidance on the use of four weight-management programs that would enable users to access weight-loss drugs.

By downloading one of four apps — Liva, Oviva, Roczen and Second Nature — patients can connect with National Health Service specialists who can provide support as well as treatment.It will “particularly benefit people who do not have access to specialist weight-management services in their area or who are on a waiting list so are not currently supported by a specialist weight-management program,” NICE states.

The technologies may also “reduce the demand on face-to-face specialist weight management programs,” NICE adds in its guidance, releasing resources and potentially reducing waiting times.

The NHS is struggling to cope with record-high waiting lists exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic — nearing 7.6 million in June — and is chronically understaffed. Patients in some areas are routinely waiting four weeks for a GP appointment.

Meanwhile, in England alone, some 30 percent of adults are obese and 38 percent are overweight, according to a 2021 health survey. Obesity increases the risk of numerous other diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Offering weight-management treatments via these apps may “improve access to medication,” NICE says in its draft guidance.

The approach has been welcomed by obesity expert Carel le Roux, a professor of metabolic medicine at Ulster University, Northern Ireland.

“We should use technology where possible to remove the barriers for patients with the disease of obesity to receive chronic care,” le Roux said via email.

Pre-empting demand

Since being approved for weight loss last year, demand for Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy has soared, propelled by social media influencers. Yet, the company has launched in only four countries — Denmark, Norway, Germany and the Unite States — and is restricting the number of new patients who can start treatment. That’s because stocks are limited while production is gradually ramping up, and patients who start Wegovy need to steadily increase the dose over a 16-week period and remain on weekly injections for up to two years.

Novo has two drugs approved for weight loss: Saxenda and Wegovy. Trial data showed those treated with Saxenda — which is already available in the U.K. — lost between 5 and 10 percent of their body weight after 56 weeks. Latest drug Wegovy demonstrated some 15 percent weight loss over 68 weeks. But this drug is not yet available.

“We do not have a confirmed launch date for Wegovy (semaglutide injection) in the U.K.,” a spokesperson for Novo Nordisk told POLITICO, adding that they are working to make Wegovy available “as soon as possible.”

The spokesperson said the company would also respond to the NICE consultation on the use of the apps to access its drugs. The guidance is open for public feedback until August 24.

Source: Politico