Wed, Feb-09-22, 01:42
'Game-changing' weight loss jabs to be made available on NHS
Obese to get 'game-changing' weight loss jabs on NHS
One-third of those taking part in a trial of weekly injections lost an average of a fifth of their total body weight
Weight loss jabs that are as effective as a gastric band are to start being prescribed by the NHS.
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is expected to give the green light to Wegovy, a once-weekly injection that suppresses appetite.
Trials have found that those put on the treatment lost an average of almost two-and-a-half stone, compared with those given a placebo.
Researchers last year said the treatment was a “game-changer”, with results comparable to those of weight loss surgery.
One-third of those taking part in the trial lost an average of a fifth of their total body weight.
The new recommendations are expected to recommend the treatment to those with a body mass index of 30 or over if they have been referred for specialist help, and to anyone with a BMI of 35 or more with a weight-related health problem.
More than one in four people in the UK are obese, which means a BMI of 30 or over.
Experts said the treatment, manufactured by Novo Nordisk, should be taken alongside changes in dietary habits and exercise habits.
The drug works by hijacking the body's own appetite-regulating system in the brain, leading to reduced hunger and calorie intake.
Research last year found that those put on the regime lost five times as much weight as those in the placebo group.
When the results were published, Rachel Batterham, lead researcher for the project and professor of obesity, diabetes and endocrinology at University College London, said they were “a major breakthrough for improving the health of people with obesity”.
“No other drug has come close to producing this level of weight loss - this really is a gamechanger,” she said.
“For the first time, people can achieve through drugs what was only possible through weight-loss surgery.”
Britain has some of the worst rates of obesity in the Western world, with two in three adults overweight or obese.
Last week, NHS research found slimmers put on an NHS regime of soup and shakes to reverse diabetes have lost an average of two stone in just three months.
This ‘game changing’ obesity jab is a medical intervention, not a miracle
Dreaming of a silver bullet obesity cure is a recipe for misery and failure
Raise your hand if you’ve ever lost weight? Now, raise your hand if you’ve lost weight, kept it off, and never had to begin the sorry cycle again? I’ll bet that second group is a sliver of the first; according to extensive research, including a systematic review of 22,000 dieters, attempts at good living fall by the wayside entirely by the 12-month mark.
That short-term fixes fail to last a lifetime should not surprise us. What should is that all efforts to overturn Britain’s obesity crisis – which affects 12.4 million adults, raising the risk of conditions including type 2 diabetes, stroke, several kinds of cancer – remain focused on the smallest part of the problem.
So seems to be the case where Wegovy – an appetite-suppressing jab this week given the green light for NHS use – is concerned. The “game-changing” weekly injection saw users lose two-and-a-half stone in a little over a year – significant numbers, which researchers rightly point out far surpass any other drug’s attempts to date. But while the £73 jab may seem a snip considering the UK’s £27 billion annual obesity cost, failing to address the more substantial part of weight loss – lifelong maintenance – will only make it more money down the drain.
Wegovy, also known as semaglitude, will be prescribed on a two-year basis to those with a BMI over 35 alongside a reduced-calorie diet and exercise. Those latter lifestyle changes are already advised to obese patients – though presumably prove too great a challenge to stick to without medical intervention. Current recommended interventions for the 64 per cent of UK adults who are overweight or obese include gastric bypass surgery – something Wegovy’s makers liken their drug to, results-wise. Yet research on its long-term outcomes vary widely, with the patient returning to their original weight (or higher) 25 to 70 per cent of the time; not great odds, really, considering its reputation as among the most successful means of obesity treatment.
Our repeated failures to reduce waistlines always come down to the same thing: unwillingness to accept that surgeries, drugs and jabs are medical interventions, not miracles, and that the humdrum, like eating less and moving more, is usually the surest way to lose and maintain weight.
If people cannot be compelled to do those things, can a jab really change that? There is the risk, too, that this new treatment becomes a silver bullet on which all hopes are hitched – those dull dietary and physical tweaks remaining analogue enough to ignore. So the problem rolls on, because changing the habits of a lifetime is too much like hard work – particularly when someone’s willing to pop a needle in your arm.
What happens, though, when your two-year prescription for Wegovy ends? Forcing one’s appetite into a medically induced coma is no sustainable solution – and unless proper planning goes into why an individual’s weight has reached dangerous levels, and enacting tweaks to ensure it doesn’t return, none of the Government’s obesity strategies will make a jot of difference. Too much of weight loss remains preoccupied with the buzz of the scales’ dial tilting leftward, with scant mention of the grinding efforts required to keep it there. Habitual tweaks are less shiny than a silver bullet, but they really work.