How Wegovy changed one person's life

Jan Newell took part in the STEP clinical trials which led to the licensing of Wegovy for weight loss by regulatory bodies around the world. It is expected to be available privately in the UK later in the Spring of 2023. Jan is a Lived Experience Champion for CheqUp. 

“The first thing I did after I’d lost all the weight was a flight in a Tiger Moth. It was bought as a present for my 60th Birthday but I was too heavy to do it, because there’s a maximum weight limit and I was way over it. That’s why it was so significant for me as I would never have been able to do it without taking Semaglutide.”

Semaglutide has been called a “new era in tackling obesity”, “a breakthrough” and “game-changing”. But what it is, and how did it change Jan’s life?

Semaglutide is one of a class of drugs called “GLP-1 agonists” which act by mimicking naturally-occurring hormones in our bodies which suppress hunger and encourage us to eat less. It is manufactured by a Danish company called Novo Nordisk and sold under the brand names of Ozempic (for people with type 2 diabetes) and Wegovy (for weight loss in people with a BMI of 30 or more). Wegovy is licensed for use in the UK and will be made available later this Spring.

Jan was one of almost 2,000 people who took part in the global clinical trials for Semaglutide from 2018-2020, run in part by clinicians at University College London Hospital – the same clinicians who have developed and directed the CheqUp weight loss service. On average, participants in the trial lost 15% of their body weight over 68 weeks which has led to life-changing benefits for people such as Jan.

“I have spent my whole life dieting – it was miserable. From as early as six I was on a diet trial in a hospital with my food and exercise monitored for 12 weeks to test the principle that stopping obesity in children can stop obesity in adults. I was always active as a child but I was big and active.

“I would start a diet, lose weight and then put it back on. I did every diet and programme imaginable. The weight would come off…….and then it would go back on again.

“At the time I didn’t know, in fact I doubt anyone knew, that there is a genetic component to obesity whereby some people, like me, have a pre-disposition to being overweight. I had this confirmed by Dr. Giles Yeo (a specialist in this field) when I took part in a BBC Horizon Special programme back in 2014 (called What’s the right diet for you?). He confirmed that I had all the FTO genes identified to date that drive you to eat.

We’ve also learned recently that our bodies have an evolutionary desire to return to our previous weight in order to prepare us for famine!

“Life changing”

“I started taking Semaglutide in September 2018 as part of the Step 1 clinical trials run by University College London Hospital. Although it was a “blind” trial with some people given a placebo, I know almost immediately that I had been given the real thing. Within a few weeks of taking the medication I started changing around food. I’d go to buy a coffee and wouldn’t be staring at the cakes and muffins. For the first time in my life I could think “that looks nice……but I don’t want one as I’m not hungry.”

Jan, like many people who have taken Semaglutide, describes this as a “miracle” and it’s easy to see why. “For the first time in my life, my hunger and cravings were being controlled – without the need for willpower, calorie counting or other forms of food management. As someone who had become conditioned to a particular relationship with food because of their physical body make up, this was genuinely life-changing.

“I lost 28kg (about 4 stone) through the Semaglutide trial and a further 22kg on a second trial using Liraglutide. I’m now a size 12 and consider myself almost a poster girl for the positive effects of this class of weight management drug providing they are taken as part of a specialist weight management service with nutritional, medical, and physical activity support.

“I’m now able to do things which I couldn’t do before because of living with obesity and others which I’d never even dreamed about – like flying in a Tiger Moth”

Jan's experience doesn’t constitute medical advice and anyone considering Semaglutide or any other weight loss treatment should consult with a healthcare provider, such as CheqUp.

Published: 08 March 2023