NICE makes landmark decision on new weight loss drug

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NICE makes landmark decision on new weight loss drug

NICE has recommended a new drug for individuals who wish to reduce their weight by over 10 per cent.

In draft guidance published today, NICE recommends semaglutide – which is also known as Wegovy and is made by Novo Nordisk – for adults with a BMI of at least 35kg/m2. This could help thousands of people living with obesity in the UK, said the public body.

The drug, which is available as a pre-filled injectable pen administered by patients once a week,  may also “exceptionally” be prescribed to people with a BMI between 30kg/m2 and 34.9kg/m2. Lower BMI thresholds have been recommended on the case of patients with south Asian, Chinese, and Black African or Caribbean family backgrounds. 

It has been found to suppress appetite by mimicking the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which is released after eating and promotes a feeling of fullness.

Evidence from a randomised double-blind trial has found that patients who take semaglutide lose an average of 12 per cent more of their body weight than those who take a placebo, and that the drug works better than weight loss coaching alone.

The drug may only be prescribed as part of a specialist weight management service involving input from more than one clinical discipline, such as a tier 3 weight management programme or tier 4 specialist obesity services. 

It can be taken for a maximum of two years.

NICE’s Helen Knight 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.

“But 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.”

NHS England has signed a commercial agreement with Novo Nordisk allowing it to purchase semaglutide below its list price, though the details of this arrangement are being held on confidence.

NICE is holding a public consultation on its recommendation from now until 5pm on Tuesday March 1.

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