Supply of the powerful ingredient behind the NHS’s new weight-loss jab won’t be readily available until January 2024, MailOnline can reveal.
A Hollywood-inspired craze for semaglutide – the powerful ingredient in Wegovy – has led to global shortages over the past year.
Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical titan behind the ‘groundbreaking’ weekly injection, has pledged to ramp up supplies.
But it has warned that ‘unprecedented demand’ means supplies of another one of its semaglutide products will be ‘intermittent’ for months.
Overweight Brits can’t get Wegovy just yet because it’s yet to launch in the UK – despite being readily available in the US.
A British study found that people taking Wegovy lost weight quickly, losing 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 they dropped the weekly injections. Experts say the drug should be used for a lifetime to keep the pounds off
Alex Guevara, 46, (pictured) is a paramedic from Milton Keynes. He has three children and lives with his wife Christina, 29. He said: ‘When a friend told me about semaglutide, I felt like 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 2nd (28 lbs/12.7 kg) in May 2020 after receiving semaglutide injections when she weighed about 12 and a half stone. She said she maintained her weight after coming off the jab with a healthy diet and a weekly treat, but has since used the jab “for help” when she “needs it”
However, officials expect the jab, which has been called Hollywood’s worst-kept secret, to roll out in the coming weeks.
MailOnline understands that Novo Nordisk is ramping up production before it becomes available in the UK, with laboratories working 24/7.
It was caught off guard by a huge wave of demand when Wegovy launched in the US in 2021, sparking a wave of shortages.
Ozempic, Wegovy’s sister drug, has also been hit by supply problems.
While it’s only approved for type 2 diabetes, some patients have been given access to the drug — a slightly weaker version — to help them lose weight.
Patients with diabetes use the drug to regulate their blood sugar levels.
But many have struggled to get their hands on semaglutide lately, due to its huge popularity for weight loss.
And Britain will only have a ‘limited’ supply of Ozempic until January next year, according to an online drug tracking system used by pharmacists.
A spokesperson for Novo Nordisk said: ‘Wegovy has not yet launched in the UK, therefore it is not covered by the UK shortfall.
‘We are working to address the intermittent supply of Ozempic for people with type 2 diabetes in the UK.
“This is due to unprecedented demand that has tested our production capacity.”
Wegovy is manufactured in doses of 2.4 mg, 1.7 mg, 1 mg, 0.5 mg or 0.2 m5 g.
Ozempic only comes in the three lower doses for comparison.
Despite being matched doses, the two products are not interchangeable.
Semaglutide works by hijacking the brain to suppress appetite and reduce calorie intake, resulting in significant weight loss.
Watchdog NICE has given the green light for use on the NHS, but it has not yet been revealed how much Wegovy will cost the healthcare system.
Trials showed that those who took it lost about 12 percent of their body weight — and cut their chances of developing type 2 diabetes by more than half.
The injections are self-administered once a week by patients using pre-filled pens for a minimum of 16 weeks.
Patients can be put on the drug for up to two years initially, although regulators say there is scope to increase this if field data shows it remains an effective weight-loss aid.
Dr. Leyla Hannbeck, managing director of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMP), said: ‘Pharmacists have struggled for months to obtain semaglutide for patients with diabetes as this drug is on the list of shortages due to high global demand for it for weight loss.
Danielle Breckenridge, 31, (before weight loss photo, left and then, right) says she also lost more than 2nd after taking semaglutide injections
Wegovy works by prompting the body to produce a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 that is released naturally from the gut after meals
“The decision to approve this weight loss drug for use by the NHS is welcome, but we expect an increase in demand and current stock levels will not keep pace.”
Malcolm Harrison, CEO of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), said: ‘We welcome the news that NICE has now recommended the use of the weight-loss drug semaglutide, also known as Wegovy.
“With this decision announced, we expect that Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Wegovy, will now work to scale up production to get their product into the UK market in sufficient quantities as soon as possible.
“At this time, we are not aware of any specific reasons why this normal process should be delayed.”