Weight Loss Treatments: Semaglutide (Wegovy)
Semaglutide is a treatment for type 2 diabetes which has recently been licensed to be used for weight management under the brand name Wegovy.
When it is readily available in the UK, it will be able to be prescribed to adults with a BMI of more than 30 (or over 27 if weight-related health conditions are present) who have struggled to lose weight through natural methods such as diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes.
It’s taken as a weekly injection and studies have shown that it has the potential to be a very effective treatment in those who need it.
What is Semaglutide?
Semaglutide is a medicine that was first developed to treat type 2 diabetes in adults, as it helps to reduce blood glucose levels which can often be quite high in people with diabetes.
However, clinical trials showed that people taking Semaglutide also experienced a reduced appetite and weight loss.
Because of this, the drug has undergone further trials to see whether or not it would be effective as a treatment for obesity in adults who don’t have diabetes.
Results are promising so far, with studies currently showing that Semaglutide can significantly help with weight loss in obese adults.
Semaglutide has recently been licensed for weight loss and is going through manufacturing, after this will be available for weight management as Wegovy.
In the meantime, prescribers can prescribe other GLP-1 Receptor Agonists, including Liraglutide, for weight loss.
Our prescribers here at myBMI can offer GLP-1 Receptor Agonists, but they will only do so if they believe that it’s the best possible treatment option for the patient in question.
Is Semaglutide the same as Ozempic or Wegovy?
Ozempic and Wegovy are both brand names for Semaglutide injections.
It’s manufactured by Novo Nordisk, which is the company that invented the medication.
For several years, Ozempic was the only form of Semaglutide that was available.
However, in 2020, Novo Nordisk launched Rybelsus – a tablet version of Semaglutide that’s taken daily.
Now, patients can request their preferred treatment for consideration during a consultation with a qualified prescriber, whether they’d like to take a weekly injection or a daily tablet.
Ozempic is still the most common form of Semaglutide used as a diabetes treatment, as most people that currently take it have been used to using the injections.
Ozempic is the version of Semaglutide that is officially approved and licensed for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes and it can only be used for this purpose.
However, the FDA in the USA have approved Semaglutide for chronic weight management and the UK is swiftly following them, licensing this treatment under the name Wegovy.
The maximum strength of Ozempic available is the 1.0mg pen as this is the dose that gives optimal results in controlling people’s Type 2 diabetes.
However, Wegovy will be released with a therapeutic dose of 2.4mg for the purposes of weight management, meaning that the dose of Semaglutide is higher in Wegovy than it is in Ozempic.
The difference, therefore between the two medications is their licenses – Ozempic is licensed to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus, whereas Wegovy is licensed for weight management, despite both containing the same active drug.
How does Wegovy (Semaglutide) work for weight loss?
Wegovy helps with weight loss because of the way it works in your gut.
When we eat, our intestines produce and release a hormone called GLP-1.
This hormone helps our brain to recognise that we’re satisfied and don’t need any more food.
Wegovy is a medicine called a “GLP-1 receptor agonist”, which means that it works in a very similar way to the GLP-1 hormone that our intestines produce naturally.
However, Semaglutide lasts for much longer than the natural version of the hormone, meaning that you’re more likely to feel more satisfied for a longer amount of time – reducing the amount that you eat overall.
This then leads to a decrease in your calorie intake, which when combined with a low-calorie diet and more exercise should lead to successful weight loss.
We have an article dedicated to explaining how Semaglutide works, so if you’d like to know more, please do take a look.
Is Semaglutide safe?
Semaglutide is safe for most people that need to take it.
As it’s a prescription-only medicine, it has to be prescribed to you by a medical professional who will be able to make the best judgement on whether or not Semaglutide is the right treatment for you.
There are certain groups of people that should avoid while taking Semaglutide, as it may cause them harm due to an underlying condition.
If you have any of the following conditions, this treatment might not be safe for you;
Semaglutide might also interact with some medicines, so you should let your prescriber know everything that you’re currently taking, including anything that isn’t prescribed.
If you’re taking any of the following treatments in particular, you should tell your prescriber so that they can decide if Semaglutide is safe for you;
This is the lowest dose available for weekly injections, and you’ll usually start by taking this for the first 4 weeks.
The main purpose of starting on the lowest dose is to avoid experiencing any severe side effects, so please don’t be disheartened if you don’t see much movement on the scales whilst you’re taking 0.25mg.
Some people do however start to see some weight loss even on this lowest dose.
Taking 0.25mg injections weekly for the first month of treatment means that your body will be allowed to gradually get used to the medication before you titrate up to a higher dose.
From weeks 5-8, most people move onto a 0.5mg injection every week.
Although this still isn’t the therapeutic dose, remember that this is still a titration period to allow your body a chance to adjust to treatment.
You should take the 0.5mg dose weekly throughout your second month of treatment.
From week 9, you’ll be able to take the full weekly dose of 1.0mg.
For most people, this is enough to start seeing results, and many people who take weekly injections for weight loss stay at this dosage for as long as they need to.
You shouldn’t ever take 1.0mg straight away without titrating up from a lower dose, as this could cause severe side effects.
The surge plan is suitable for people that have been taking the 1.0mg dose for a while and have either reached a plateau or stopped seeing as much success as expected.
Your prescriber will make the final decision about whether or not a surge plan would be appropriate for you, and if so, how long you should stay on it.
The maintenance plan is perfect for people that have reached their goal weight with Ozempic and are wanting to maintain it without losing or gaining a significant amount more.
Semaglutide side effects
Most medicines cause side effects in some people, and Semaglutide isn’t an exception to this.
However, it’s important to know that not everybody experiences side effects when taking Semaglutide, and those that do often find that they go away on their own within a few weeks as the body gets used to the medication.
Most side effects that are reported with this treatment tend to involve the gut.
For example, some of the most common side effects include;
The complete list of side effects is available in the patient information leaflet, which you should read before you start to take Semaglutide.
If you do experience side effects whilst taking Semaglutide, your healthcare team can provide any supporting treatments which might help you to deal with them.
For example, if you’re experiencing diarrhoea, a prescriber or pharmacist may provide Loperamide to help to reduce it.
If you are one of our patients, any of these supplemental treatments will be included in the cost of your consultation, as we want to make sure that patients are supported throughout their weight management journey, and we believe that treatments for side effects should be part of that support.
Is Wegovy available on the NHS?
Wegovy is not available on the NHS at the moment, as it is still going through the manufacturing stage.
However, you still may not be able to get Wegovy prescribed to you on the NHS, as their prescribers will have a large number of conditions you’ll need to meet before they can financially justify a prescription.
If these conditions are similar to those needed for an NHS prescription of Saxenda, your GP will need to consider factors like your BMI, whether you have any weight-related health concerns, and whether you have tried other ways of losing weight.
For a Saxenda prescription, you will need to be at tier 3 of the NHS’s weight management service.
Although we do not know what tier Wegovy would sit at the moment, an educated guess tells us that you would need to be at tier 3 or higher before you could be considered for an NHS prescription.
Ozempic is available on the NHS, but it is only licensed to be used in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Because of this, the NHS do not offer it as a treatment to those that need help with weight loss.
Where can I get GLP-1 receptor agonist injections in the UK?
myBMI offers GLP-1 Receptor Agonists as well as many other weight loss treatments, as a first-line treatment for obesity.
If you’re considering taking weekly injections for weight loss, please complete an online consultation so our prescribing team can consider whether they would be right for you.
Each consultation costs £199*, and includes 28 days’ worth of treatment, delivery, needles and a sharps bin, any supporting treatments, and access to the myBMI community, as well as exclusive videos and content from our specialists.
Rather than just buying medication, with myBMI, you’re buying a complete weight management package from a specialist-led service.
Again, your choice of treatment is the ultimate decision of our prescriber.
What is the cost of myBMI?
myBMI consultations cost £199*, which includes 28 days’ worth of treatment – this may include GLP-1 Receptor Agonists or other weight loss medications, depending on your medical history and needs.
One of the benefits of using myBMI is that the price of your treatment is always the same, no matter what medication and dose you’re prescribed.
This is because any treatment we prescribe to you is included in the cost of your consultation, along with supporting treatments and access to our online support group.