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NICE recommends weight loss jab to help people shed unhealthy fat

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Thousands of people struggling with obesity could soon be offered a weekly injection to help shed unhealthy fat (weight loss jab).

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is recommending the treatment, semaglutide, branded as Wegovy, to adults with at least one weight-related condition and a body mass index (BMI) of at least 35 kg/m2.

Manufactured by Novo Nordisk, the drug makes people feel fuller, reducing their appetite.

However, it can only be prescribed as part of a specialist weight management service for a maximum of two years.

Clinical trials have shown that if used alongside a healthy diet and exercise, the treatment can help obese people to reduce more than 10 per cent of their body weight.

According to the 2019 Health Survey for England, 28 per cent of adults were obese and 36 per cent were overweight. Besides, current costs of obesity in the UK are £6.1 billion to the NHS and £27 billion to wider society.

Noting that overweight and obesity management is one of the biggest challenges faced by health service, Helen Knight, programme director in the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE, said: “It is a lifelong condition that needs medical intervention, has psychological and physical effects, and can affect quality of life.

“But in recent years NICE has been able to recommend a new line of pharmaceutical treatments which have shown that those people using them, alongside changes to their diet and exercise, have been able to reduce their weight.”

NICE’s independent appraisal committee has recommended that the treatment can be offered as an option for weight management in the following cases:

  • they have at least one weight-related comorbidity and:
  • a BMI at least 35.0 kg/m2, or
  • exceptionally, a BMI of 30.0 kg/m2 to 34.9 kg/m2 if they are referred to tier 3 services based on the criteria in NICE’s clinical guideline on obesity: identification, assessment and management.

A lower BMI threshold has been recommended for people from South Asian, Chinese, and Black African family backgrounds.

NICE has launched a consultation on the draft guidelines which will remain open for comments until 5pm on March 1, 2022.

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