UK plans £40m drug trial for Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy to aid NHS in treating obesity
The UK Government has announced plans to launch a pilot programme which will provide GPs with Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy (semaglutide), a drug which has shown to help obesity patients lose up to 15% of their body weight in combination with diet changes and exercise. The two-year pilot has already been backed by £40m in funding.
Currently, Wegovy has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as a once-weekly injection and recommended for NHS use by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), but only through specialist weight loss services. The Government highlighted that this limits the care to around 35,000 people, whereas allowing GPs to prescribe the drug would open it up to “tens of thousands” more patients.
However, Novo Nordisk has admitted to struggling with building production capacity while the drug is increasingly being greenlit globally ‒ sales of Wegovy have more than tripled in the first quarter of 2023 to $666m.
To combat this, the Government has said it will consider drugs which work in a similar way to Wegovy, including Eli Lilly’s once-weekly injectable Mounjaro (tirzepatide) and Novo Nordisk’s oral version of Wegovy. Both drugs have phase 3 data proving their efficacy.
NHS medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, commented: “Pharmaceutical treatments offer a new way of helping people with obesity [achieve] a healthier weight and this new pilot will help determine if these medicines can be used safely and effectively in non-hospital settings.”
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