Wegovy is a new weight-loss medication that will become available in the UK later in 2022. It recently hit the headlines, with the press discussing how it could be made available on the NHS. In this post, we take a look at whether Wegovy will be available on the NHS, and who could get free Wegovy via an NHS prescription.
Wegovy is the brand name for a new weight-loss drug that is injected once a week. It was created by the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, the company behind the established weight-loss injection Saxenda. For more information on Saxenda, see our blog post detailing when Saxenda is prescribed on the NHS.
Wegovy contains the active ingredient semaglutide. This is a type of medicine called a GLP-1 receptor agonist. Wegovy works by controlling your appetite, causing you to feel fuller and less hungry and experience less craving for food. These effects can help you to lose weight.
It’s injected once a week in the abdomen, thigh, or upper arm. The injection can cause stomach side effects such as nausea and vomiting. To reduce the likelihood of these side effects, the dose is gradually increased over the first 16 weeks of treatment, to the maximum dose of 2.4 mg once a week.
Clinical trials of Wegovy showed that it demonstrated superior, clinically meaningful, and sustained weight loss compared with placebo. The clinical trials used patients who were obese or patients who were overweight and had at least one weight-related disease. For more information, see our in-depth post about Wegovy.
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Is Wegovy free on the NHS?
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides national health guidance in the UK. They recently announced they were recommending Wegovy be made available on the NHS for people living with obesity. However, this announcement is only a recommendation at the moment and the final confirmation is expected in late May 2022.
This means that although Wegovy is not available on the NHS (as of February 2022), it’s very possible it will become available through the NHS later this year.
The NICE recommendation for Wegovy provided preliminary criteria for prescribing it on the NHS. See below for more information on these criteria, including the body mass index (BMI) criteria.
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What are the criteria to get Wegovy on the NHS?
Although Wegovy hasn’t been made available on the NHS yet, specific criteria has been drafted by NICE about who should be prescribed Wegovy by the NHS. It states that Wegovy should be used alongside a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.
The recommendation states that it should only be prescribed to adults with at least 1 weight-related disease who have a BMI of at least 35kg/m2. Weight-related diseases include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and sleep apnoea.
It also states that it can be prescribed in exceptional circumstances to patients with a BMI of 30 to 34.9kg/m2. This only applies to people who are referred to NHS tier 3 weight loss services by their GP. A GP may refer someone for several reasons, such as other treatment options failing or weight-loss surgery being under consideration.
The BMI threshold is likely to be lower for people from south Asian, Chinese and Black African or Caribbean family backgrounds. This is because people from these ethnic groups face an increased risk of long-term health conditions at a lower BMI than the white population. The threshold is usually reduced by 2.5kg/m2 for people from these ethnic groups.
The recommendation highlights that Wegovy should be prescribed for a maximum of 2 years. It also recommends that Wegovy must be prescribed from tier 3 or tier 4 weight management services. See this Obesity Empowerment Network page for information on NHS tiered services.
Where can I get Wegovy on private prescription?
When Wegovy becomes available in the UK, you can request Wegovy online from Simple Online Pharmacy. Our UK registered doctors have substantial experience with prescribing Saxenda for weight loss and can evaluate your suitability for Wegovy. Contact our customer service team if you would like to be alerted when Wegovy becomes available.
The criteria for prescribing Wegovy on a private prescription is different to the NHS criteria. This is because the NHS considers the cost-effectiveness of treatments when recommending the prescribing of a new medicine, which means NHS criteria are often more strict.
Wegovy on a private prescription can be given to patients with:
- A BMI of 30kg/m2 or higher
- Or a BMI of 27kg/m2 to 30kg/m2 in people with at least one weight-related medical condition
It should be prescribed alongside a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.