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Novo Nordisk Wegovy’s NHS access marks milestone in obesity treatment, but challenges remain: GlobalData

The constrained supply of Wegovy and the necessity of ongoing obesity management support are key considerations

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Novo Nordisk‘s obesity medication Wegovy (semaglutide) will soon be accessible through the National Health Service (NHS) in England, albeit with limited supply. To maintain controlled distribution, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) will implement eligibility criteria, focusing on patients with comorbidities and specific BMI ranges. Although expected to become a leading obesity treatment, the constrained supply of Wegovy and the necessity of ongoing obesity management support are key considerations, forecasts GlobalData.

NICE recommends the use of Wegovy alongside a healthy diet and exercise in patients with comorbidities, who have a body mass index (BMI) of 35kg/m2 or above. Wegovy will also be available for patients who are eligible for specialist weight management services with a BMI of 30–34.9 kg/mg2 and have a weight-related comorbidity. Weight-related comorbidities include type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and obstructive sleep apnea.

GlobalData’s recent Obesity: Seven-Market Drug Forecast and Market Analysis report, which explores marketed and late-stage pipeline pharmacotherapies in the obesity space, reveals that the obesity drug market across the seven major markets (7MM: US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and Japan) is set to grow from $2.43 billion in 2021 to $37.06 billion in 2031.

Sara Reci, Senior Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, comments, “Wegovy is a glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonist (GLP-1RA) therapy. Thanks to its superior efficacy and a lower frequency of administration in comparison to the currently marketed obesity therapies, Wegovy is expected to be one of the key drugs in the obesity space. It is anticipated to reach $10.17 billion in sales across the 7MM in 2031. A therapy that is likely to compete with Wegovy in the obesity space once it reaches the market however is Eli Lilly’s tirzepatide, a GLP-1R and gastric inhibitory polypeptide receptor (GIPR) dual agonist that is currently in the late-stage pipeline for obesity.”

Key opinion leaders (KOLs) interviewed by GlobalData have expressed their excitement over Wegovy, calling the therapy a gamechanger due to its potential to enable clinically meaningful weight reduction in obesity patients, thanks to its ability to provide 15 per cent of total body weight loss in patients, which is almost twice as much weight loss as with currently marketed Saxenda (liraglutide). However, they also noted the limited supply of Wegovy as one of the major hurdles to drug sales growth.

Reci concludes, “While making Wegovy available through the NHS is crucial in addressing obesity, many KOLs emphasise that pharmacotherapy alone will not fully resolve the issue, a perspective reflected in NICE’s eligibility criteria. Obesity is a chronic problem, demanding sustained efforts. Even if Wegovy aids in weight reduction, the ongoing support from lifestyle experts, psychologists, and social care is vital for maintaining long-term benefits. NICE’s criteria aim to prioritise those in greatest need and prevent stock limitations from denying them access.”

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