A controversial weight loss injection – known as Wegovy, or in the US, Ozempic – is soon to be offered by UK high street pharmacies, prompting a mixed response from the public.
ICYMI, the prescription drug – used to help those with Type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels – has made headlines recently as a celeb-favored approach to weight loss. As an insulin regulator, the drug is injected weekly and can reduce a patient’s appetite which in turn triggers weight loss.
“Appetite suppression occurs in two ways, semaglutide within Ozempic simulates the release of GLP-1 which stimulates neurones in the gut, creating a feeling of fullness in the stomach,” explains Pauline Cox MSc, an expert in Nutritional and Integrative Medicine and nutritional advisor to Wiley’s Finest sustainable supplements. “Pathways from the gut communicate to an area in the brain called the hypothalamus, which regulates appetite,” she adds, noting that the hypothalamus then suppresses the appetite, resulting in reduced food intake and ultimately weight loss.
Famous faces including Elon Musk and Khloé Kardashian are said to have used drugs, although Khloé has strongly denied this, reminding fans not to “discredit” the hard work she puts into her health and fitness. “I get up five days a week at 6am to train. Please stop with your assumptions,” she said in response to the claim.
Now, UK high street pharmacies will soon be offering the drug in stores. Although retailers have not revealed how much the service will cost, draft guidelines for the NHS list a month’s supply of four pre-filled disposable injection pens as £73.25.
News that the weight loss jab will soon be available in the UK has sparked concern online, with many arguing that those looking to lose weight healthily should be guided towards diet and lifestyle changes rather than pharmaceuticals.
It’s a point that Cox backs up too, telling Cosmopolitan UK: “A pharmaceutical drug can never replace the benefits of physical activity and a healthy diet.” Although, she does note that the results of the drug used in this weight loss jab are “impressive and could improve the health of many.”
Elsewhere, others highlighted how seeing the weight loss drugs readily available at high street pharmacies could pose a threat to those with or at risk of developing an eating disorder. “I’m raging because this is so fucking dangerous. Just like weight loss pills or teas, these are perfect tools for an eating disorder,” a critic wrote on Twitter, as another branded it a “gateway into an eating disorder (if you don’t already have one).”
It’s worth noting however that not everyone will be eligible to take the weight loss injection. Those looking to use the drug will need to be overweight or obese and it must be prescribed by a doctor. Nevertheless, there are still concerns about the risks of making the drug readily available to the public.
“Any medicine which offers weight loss or a ‘quick fix’ solution can really appeal to anyone with an eating disorder, but there’s a very high risk of making them even more unwell,” said Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity. “Misusing medication can be one of the first signs of an eating disorder, and it’s vital that healthcare professionals are made aware of this so that they can help anyone affected to get treatment right away.”
Explaining to Cosmopolitan UK what measures need to be put in place to protect those with or at risk of developing an eating disorder, Quinn went on: “Weight-loss medications should only be sold under the strictest possible conditions, and prescribers should be doing thorough physical and mental health checks to make sure their patients are well enough to take them.”
If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s health, you can contact Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, 365 days a year on 0808 801 0677 or beatatingdisorders.org.uk.
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