NHS Considers Weight-Loss Apps to Address Obesity Epidemic

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The NHS in England is exploring the integration of four weight-loss apps that offer not only access to weight-loss medications but also psychological support and expert guidance on diet and exercise. With the aim of addressing the rising obesity rates, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggests that the apps could be a viable solution given the current challenges faced by face-to-face obesity treatment services.

Around 25% of adults in England are classified as obese, and NICE recognizes that the existing services cannot effectively meet the growing demand. Mark Chapman, the interim director of medical technology and digital evaluation at NICE, emphasizes that the apps could bridge the gap, enabling more individuals to access the necessary support for weight loss.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay sees this initiative as a significant step toward combating obesity, which incurs substantial costs for the NHS each year. He highlights the importance of combining the new obesity medications with holistic approaches, such as diet, exercise, and behavioral support.

NICE’s draft guidance proposes the use of these apps by the NHS for the next four years while assessing their cost-effectiveness. The potential impact is substantial – calculations by NICE suggest that up to 48,000 individuals could utilize these apps, leading to an estimated saving of 145,000 hours of doctors’ time.

The primary focus of these apps is to offer assistance to individuals who cannot attend in-person appointments or lack access to local support. For some patients, access to the apps might require providing them with tablet computers and mobile internet connections.

However, there are concerns regarding the availability of one of the recommended medications – the weight-loss injection, Wegovy. The Danish company Novo Nordisk, which produces Wegovy, has not yet launched the drug in the UK. High demand for the medication in the US has led the company to prioritize its existing market, potentially delaying its introduction in new markets.

Wegovy was approved for NHS use in England earlier this year. It helps individuals feel full by imitating a hormone called Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), thereby reducing calorie intake. Novo Nordisk’s Chief Financial Officer, Karsten Knudsen, states that the company aims to prioritize patients already on Wegovy to ensure they receive continuous care and benefits.

Novo Nordisk is a prominent manufacturer of type-2 diabetes drug Ozempic, as well as weight-loss injections Saxenda and Wegovy.

The draft recommendations concerning these apps are open for public consultation for ten days, ending on August 25. Eligibility to use the apps is limited to individuals with a BMI of 35 or slightly lower, provided they have a weight-related illness.

SOURCE: Ref Image from Daily Mail

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