British PM unveils pilot scheme for anti-obesity drugs to reduce pressure on NHS
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a two-year pilot scheme to reduce pressures on the state-funded National Health Service (NHS) by prescribing “game-changer” anti-obesity drugs to patients with at least one weight-related health condition. The scheme aims to help people lose weight and cut waiting lists for access to procedures in the health service.
– The GBP 40-million two-year pilot scheme will explore how approved drugs can be made safely available to more people by expanding specialist weight management services outside of hospital settings.
– Obesity is one of the leading causes of severe health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer and costs the health service GBP 6.5 billion a year.
– The UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended the use of Semaglutide (Wegovy) for adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 35 and one weight-related health condition.
– Other drugs are also under consideration in clinical trials, which had indicated that when prescribed alongside diet, physical activity and behavioural support, people taking a weight-loss drug can lose up to 15 per cent of their body weight after one year.
– The new pilot scheme is set to explore how approved drugs can be made safely available to more people by expanding specialist weight management services outside of hospital settings.
– NICE is also considering the potential NHS use of another drug known as Tirzepatide – which is currently licensed to treat diabetes but may also help with weight loss – if it receives a license for weight loss in the coming months.
The pilot scheme is expected to contribute to reducing the number of people who suffer from weight-related illnesses, who tend to need more support from the NHS and could end up needing operations linked to their weight – such as gallstone removal or hip and knee replacements. The scheme will also explore how GPs could safely prescribe these drugs and how the NHS can provide support in the community or digitally.
“This next generation of obesity drugs has the potential to help people lose significant amounts of weight when prescribed with exercise, diet and behavioural support. Tackling obesity will help to reduce pressure on the NHS and cut waiting times, one of the government’s five priorities, and this pilot will help people live longer, healthier lives,” said UK Health Secretary Steve Barclay.
NHS England said it is already working to implement recommendations from NICE to make this new class of treatment available to patients through established specialist weight management services, subject to negotiating a secure long-term supply of the products at prices that represent value for money for the British taxpayer.