Obesity is one of the biggest health problems in the UK with an estimated 25% of adults and 23% of children in the UK being classed as obese.
This places a huge financial burden on the NHS, costing them about £6.5 billion a year. (GOV.UK)
It’s one of the leading causes of mortality globally, surpassing smoking in the UK. Although it may not be a direct cause of death, it increases the likelihood of developing severe health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases. Obesity was a factor in around 1 million hospital admissions in the UK in 2019/2020, and in some of these cases, the cause could have been prevented.
To tackle obesity, the government has been introducing measures, such as labelling menus with calories and adding a sugar tax on some food items. But medicine is playing a growing role too.
The Future of Weight Loss: Wegovy
There are new treatments available on the NHS, such as Wegovy, a popular weight loss treatment that’s been endorsed by many celebrities including Elon Musk. The UK Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, has described Wegovy as having ‘significant economic benefits’ and will help ‘tackle dangerous obesity-related health conditions’.
Wegovy is a weight loss injection that contains semaglutide, a drug that suppresses your appetite, making you feel full. This stops you from overeating and craving food.
It’s also been estimated to be a worthwhile investment for patients who are likely to require further and more complex care as a result of obesity in later life. An evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of semaglutide for weight management in the UK found that Wegovy has an ICER rating of 14,827/QALY. (Sandhu et al., 2023) In simple terms, for every improvement in health and wellbeing it costs £14,827, and for reference anything under £20,000 is considered good. This can help take some of the financial load off the NHS while providing the best care for everyone.
Currently, only people with a BMI over 35 (or over 30 in special cases) can get Wegovy on the NHS. There are also a limited number of treatments available and to become eligible, patients must obtain a referral and meet specific criteria. This process can take a while, so some might prefer to get it privately at an approximate price range of £73-£178 per pen.
Wegovy seems to be a step forward for the NHS by reducing the financial burden, offering the latest treatments, and preventing future health issues in individuals. However, Novo Nordisk, the company that manufactures Wegovy, has been dealing with supply issues and, therefore, has been unable to meet the high demand. So it might be a while before the NHS can reap the full benefits of Wegovy.
- Sandhu, H., Xu, W., Olivieri, V., Lübker, C., Smith, I., & Antavalis, V. (2023). Once-Weekly Subcutaneous Semaglutide 2.4 mg Injection is Cost-Effective for Weight Management in the United Kingdom. Advances in Therapy, 40(3), 1282-1291. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12325-022-02423-8
- GOV.UK. Department of Health and Social Care Media Centre. Government plans to tackle obesity in England. Accessed (22/11/2023). https://healthmedia.blog.gov.uk/2023/06/07/government-plans-to-tackle-obesity-in-england/