CheqUp welcomes the government’s commitment to tackle obesity and increase access to medication

The announcement that the UK government is making £40m available to increase the availability of weight management medication will be welcome news to millions living with obesity

The UK Government's recent announcement regarding its commitment to addressing obesity is a significant step forward in improving the health and well-being of the population. With the recognition of game-changing medications such as Wegovy and the pledge to increase the availability of Tier 3 weight management services, the government is demonstrating its dedication to combatting obesity - one of the world’s biggest public health problems. 

This initiative, supported by a two-year pilot and an investment of up to £40 million, aims to make obesity drugs more accessible to patients outside of hospital settings, thus alleviating pressure on the NHS and reducing waiting lists.

Unlocking New Treatment Options:

Among the noteworthy developments is the endorsement by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) of Semaglutide 2.4mg, commonly known as Wegovy, for adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 35 and weight-related health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. Moreover, clinical trials have shown that when prescribed alongside diet, physical activity, and behavioral support, weight loss drugs can help individuals living with obesity shed up to 15% of their body weight within a year. The inclusion of these medications in treatment plans, combined with holistic lifestyle adjustments, can yield positive results as early as the first month.

Addressing the Impact of Obesity:

Obesity has emerged as a leading cause of severe health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, imposing substantial burdens on individuals and the healthcare system alike. In fact, obesity-related issues cost the NHS an estimated £6.5 billion annually, with more than a million hospital admissions in 2019/2020 directly linked to obesity. By leveraging the latest treatments to combat obesity, the government's initiative can significantly reduce the number of weight-related illnesses, ultimately alleviating strain on the NHS and mitigating the need for surgeries such as gallstone removal or hip and knee replacements.

While NICE recommends limiting access to Wegovy through specialist weight management services primarily based in hospitals, this approach restricts availability to a mere 35,000 individuals. Given that millions of people qualify based on BMI criteria, it is crucial to expand access to innovative medications like Wegovy. The £40 million allocated to the pilot program will explore methods to safely make approved drugs more widely available outside of hospital settings, including the potential for general practitioners (GPs) to prescribe these medications. By expanding specialist weight management services beyond hospitals, the government aims to provide support in the community and digitally, ensuring that individuals can access the care they need in the most convenient manner.

Toby Nicol, Founder & CEO of CheqUp, said:

“Obesity is one of the world’s leading causes of death, disease, and social inequality. It is fundamentally misunderstood and those living with obesity or overweight are frequently subject to stigma and abuse. 

“The UK is leading the way by making certain weight management medication available on the NHS, but has been hampered by the lack of Tier 3 weight management support places. 

“The announcement by the UK Government that £40m is being made available to pilot new mechanisms of delivering this GLP-1 medication is a major step forward and should have a positive impact for millions of people”

Published: 08 June 2023