Miracle ingredient behind ‘game-changing’ NHS weight loss jab Wegovy will be in ‘limited supply’ until January 2024
- EXCLUSIVE: Semaglutide will see limited supply until early next year
- Novo Nordisk, the Danish drug maker, has committed to ramping up supplies
Supply of the powerful ingredient behind the NHS’s new slimming jab will not be readily available until January 2024, MailOnline can reveal.
A Hollywood-inspired craze for semaglutide – the powerful ingredient in Wegovy – has triggered global shortages over the past year.
Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical titan behind the ‘game-changing’ weekly injection, has committed to ramping up supplies.
But it has warned that ‘unprecedented demand’ means supply for another one of its semaglutide products will be ‘intermittent’ for months.
Overweight Brits cannot yet be given Wegovy because it has yet to launch in the UK — despite being readily available in the US.
A UK study found that people who used Wegovy experienced rapid weight loss, dropping 18% of their weight over 68 weeks. They regained two-thirds of that weight, or 12% of their original body weight in the year after dropping the weekly injections. Experts says the drug needs to be used over a lifetime to keep off the pounds
Alex Guevara, 46, (pictured) is a paramedic practitioner from Milton Keynes. He has three children, zoloft side effects high blood pressure and lives with his wife Christina, 29. He said: ‘When a friend told me about semaglutide I felt I had nothing to lose. I went to a private clinic, and paid £250 a month for six months’
Ciara Lawless, 40, from Dublin, lost 2st (28lbs/12.7kg) in May 2020 after getting semaglutide injections when she weighed around 12 and a half stone. She said she maintained her weight after coming off the jab through healthy eating and a weekly treat but has since used the jab ‘for help’ when she ‘needs it’
Officials expect the jab, dubbed Hollywood’s worst-kept secret, to be rolled out in the coming weeks, however.
MailOnline understands that Novo Nordisk is ramping up production before making it available in Britain, with labs working 24/7.
It was blindsided by a massive wave of demand when Wegovy launched in the US in 2021, triggering a wave of shortages.
Ozempic, Wegovy’s sister drug, has also been affected by supply issues.
Although only licensed for type 2 diabetics, some patients have accessed the drug — a slightly weaker version — to help them lose weight.
READ MORE: Wonder weight loss drug will be dished out on the NHS – but experts warn Hollywood’s favourite slimming jab with nasty side effects like nausea and diarrhoea is NOT a miracle obesity fix and users can quickly pile pounds back on once they stop
Semaglutide, marketed as Wegovy, will be available in pharmacies from the spring
Patients with diabetes use the drug to regulate their blood glucose levels.
But many have struggled to get their hands on semaglutide of late, due to its surge in popularity for weight loss purposes.
And Britain will only have ‘limited’ supplies of Ozempic until next January, according to an online medicine tracker used by pharmacists.
A Novo Nordisk spokesperson said: ‘Wegovy hasn’t yet launched in the UK, therefore this is not in scope of the shortage in the UK.
‘We’re working to address intermittent supply of Ozempic for people living with type 2 diabetes in the UK.
‘This is due to unprecedented levels of demand which has tested our manufacturing capacity.’
Wegovy is manufactured in doses of either 2.4mg, 1.7mg, 1mg, 0.5mg or 0.2m5g.
Ozempic, for comparison, only comes in the three lower doses.
Despite being matching doses, the two products are not interchangeable.
Semaglutide works by hijacking the brain to suppress appetite and reduce calorie intake, resulting in substantial weight loss.
Watchdog NICE has given it the green light to be used on the NHS, but it has not yet been disclosed how much Wegovy will cost the health service.
Trials found those on it lost around 12 per cent of their body weight – and slashed their chances of type 2 diabetes by more than half.
The jabs are self-administered by patients once a week using pre-filled pens, for a minimum of 16 weeks.
Patients can initially be placed on the drug for a maximum of two years, although regulators say there is scope to increase this if real-world data shows it continues to be an effective weight loss tool.
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMP), said: ‘For months pharmacists have struggled to obtain semaglutide for patients with diabetes as this medicine is on shortages list due to high global demand for it for weight loss.
Danielle Breckenridge, 31, (pictured before the weight loss, left, and after, right) says she also lost more than 2st after taking semaglutide injections
Wegovy works by triggering the body to produce a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 that is released naturally from the intestines after meals
‘The decision to approve this weight loss medicine for NHS use is welcome but we anticipate an increase in demand and the current stock levels not keeping up.’
Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), said: ‘We welcome the news that NICE have now recommended the use of the weight-loss drug semaglutide – also known as Wegovy.
‘Now that this decision has been announced we expect that Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Wegovy, will now be working to scale up manufacture, to get their product to the UK market in sufficient volumes as soon as possible.
‘At this time, we are not aware of any specific reasons why this normal process should be delayed.’
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