Ozempic-like weight loss drug Wegovy coming to the U.K. market, and it will cost a fraction of what Americans pay
London – The UK's major pharmacy chain plans to start selling a hugely different version of diet drug Wegovy Popular Ozempic Brandsthis year, the company that makes the two drugs said it was working to expand the availability of the popular semaglutide drug in Europe.
Semaglutide works by mimicking a hormone that makes people feel full, suppressing their appetite so they eat less. Ozempic is marketed and used to treat type 2 diabetes, but its side effects of dramatic weight loss have made it popular among celebrities. Manufactured by the same Danish pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk, Wegovy is marketed for weight loss in higher doses.
spike in The prevalence of semaglutide leading to a surge in demand, lead to a shortage in the us earlier this year.
The UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published draft guidance recommending the use of Wegovy for obese patients, with final guidance expected to be published on March 8. The guidance will serve as a formal directive from England's National Health Service to start delivering the medicine to patients who need it, a NICE spokesman told CBS News.
“We know that the management of overweight and obesity is one of the greatest challenges facing our health services, with nearly two thirds of adults overweight or obese. It is a lifelong condition that requires medical intervention and has psychological and physical impacts, and could affect quality of life,” Helen Knight, program director at NICE's Center for Health Technology Assessment, said in a statement.
Jo Dent, an NHS worker who visited a personal doctor late last year to get a prescription for Ozempic after struggling to lose weight, told CBS News that semaglutide has helped her reshape her relationship with food. Making it more accessible would be a good thing for the state's health service, she said.
“I do think it will support people in reducing the burden on the NHS in terms of the challenges obesity poses and its impact on other health conditions,” she said. “It's not a quick fix, it's not the only answer, but If you really want to lose weight, it will actually help you.”
At least one major pharmacy chain in the UK plans to start prescribing and selling Wegovy privately through its online doctor service this year. Boots, the nation's largest pharmacy chain, has begun offering online prescriptions for the drug, while rival Superdrug has set up a waiting list.
A Novo Nordisk spokesman declined to provide specific countries or timing, saying the company “really wants to make sure we only launch when we can supply the product. So obviously we've strengthened our supply chain. We’ve invested a lot, a lot, and our manufacturing is now running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
The spokesman said that even after the UK NICE guidance was published next week, Wegovy would only be available to the NHS once the company had sufficient supplies to bring it to market.
“We don't have a specific release date,” a spokesperson told CBS News. “We just want to make it available as quickly as possible.”
Novo Nordisk launched Wegovy in Norway and Denmark late last year, and the company expects to launch it in more European countries in 2023, the spokesman said.
“Obviously, we're only focused on producing for Europe and continuing to supply the U.S.,” the spokesperson told CBS News.
NICE said the 0.25mg, 0.5mg and 1.0mg doses of Wegovy were priced at 73.25 pounds (about $88) for a pack of four prefilled injection pens, but if it became available on the NHS it would be free or subject to cost structure, the standard prescription fee is approximately $10 per order.
In the U.S., the same pack of four Wegovy pens costs $1,349, but some health insurance plans will pay at least some of the cost.
In the UK, Wegovy is only available to obese adults with at least one additional medical condition, such as heart disease or high blood pressure. It must be prescribed by a doctor or person with specialist qualifications.