A FAST fat-busting fix that actually works and doesn’t involve juicing or vats of cabbage soup?
It sounds too good to be true, but some people are hailing weight loss jabs as the holy grail of obesity cures.
Now one that allegedly helped billionaire business mogul Elon Musk shed the pounds, and is rumoured to have helped Kim Kardashian fit into that Marilyn Monroe dress for the Met Gala, is coming to a high street near you.
Wegovy will be available on prescription in Boots pharmacies, offering hope to millions of British people caught in a cycle of soul-destroying yo-yo dieting.
But what is the truth about the weekly jab that’s taken Hollywood by storm?
The NHS watchdog NICE has issued draft guidance recommending it as a weight-loss aid.
It came after trials showed people taking the drug lost on average 12 per cent more of their body weight, compared to people on a placebo.
And with one in four adults in England and one in three in Scotland living with obesity, and another two thirds of British people overweight, it is hoped the jab could help tackle the spiralling epidemic.
Carrying excess fat can prove deadly, raising the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke as well as 13 types of cancer.
Dr Zoe Watson, a London GP and the founder of wellgoodwellbeing.com, tells Sun Health: “Your body naturally produces an appetite regulating hormone called glucagon- like peptide-1.
“These jabs work by regulating your appetite, which can lead to eating fewer calories and losing weight.”
Dr Watson says they can be “very effective when used in conjunction with lifestyle changes including diet and exercise”.
But, like all medicines, the jabs do not come without side effects.
Around half of people taking the drug experience gut issues, including sickness, bloating, acid reflux, constipation and diarrhoea.
And Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical consultant at patient.info, adds: “One of the more uncommon side effects is severe acute pancreatitis, which is extremely painful and happens to one in 500 people.”
Other rare complications include gallbladder problems, kidney failure, serious allergic reaction and depression.
Meanwhile, last autumn TikTok was flooded with influencers raving about a similar drug called Ozempic, hailing it as the latest weight-loss wonder.
Ozempic, like Wegovy, contains the active ingredient semaglutide, which suppresses appetite and makes you feel full faster – Ozempic was designed to manage type 2 diabetes.
Sun columnist Jeremy Clarkson is taking Ozempic, in a bid to ward off type 2 diabetes, and says it’s had a huge impact on his appetite.
He wrote in the Sunday Times last month: “It’s genuinely incredible. I can open the fridge, where there’s half a chicken and a juicy bottle of rosé, and I want neither.”
Media coverage and the social media storm triggered a global shortage of the drug, leaving people with type 2 diabetes to go without and raised fears about misuse of the drug.
Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at eating disorders charity, Beat tells Sun Health: “These medications can be very attractive to people as they seemingly offer a ‘quick fix’ solution.
“There is a very high risk of making those with eating disorders even more unwell and it is vital people are aware of the dangers of abusing medication in order to lose weight.”
Like all prescription drugs, Wegovy will be subject to strict measures to reduce the risk of misuse
Dr Jarvis adds: “There is a strict criteria for these medications. They are only given to people under the care of specialist weight loss teams.
“GPs can’t prescribe them and can only refer people to the weight loss teams.
“Pharmacists can only issue the jabs if they have done a full assessment of the patient, something they’re given extra training for.
“They will be screening for eating disorders, including binge eating and bulimia which aren’t always as obvious.”
Despite the fears, Dr Watson is clear, the pros outweigh the cons. She says: “It is extremely important not to create a stigma and controversy around this highly effective weight-loss management drug because of a handful of celebrities.
“It is not the medication that is controversial, it is the celebrities who definitely don’t have obesity using it.”
So what is it like taking weight-loss jabs? Below, two women tell us about their very different experiences.
‘Had I known sooner, I’d have tried them years ago’
LEANNE Smith, 41, from Merthyr Tydfil, owns trendytotsbabyboutique.com and took Ozempic. She says:
“I’ve tried every possible diet – as quick as I would lose, I’d gain it back. A friend recommended Ozempic injections so I signed up at an online chemist.
“At my biggest I was 19st 11lb. I felt so disgusted, it affected my mobility and mental health.
“I know people say move more, but I have spinal problems and the more weight I gained, the worse things were.
“The nurse at my GP practice was against me going on them, but my children Courtney, 20, Mason, 17, and Olivia, six, were really supportive.
“The side effects weren’t great. It felt like I had morning sickness. I’d get bad headaches, constipation and diarrhoea, but after three months the side-effects passed.
“The results were pretty much instant too – the first week I lost half a stone, the same happened the second week.
“I also stuck to a calorie controlled diet of around 1,200 calories a day, and increased my step count and swam too.
“I’m currently 12st 5lb and since stopping the injections in January 2022, I’ve maintained my weight.
“If I’d known about the injections sooner, I’d have tried them years ago. Not everyone can afford them but they have changed my life.”
‘I lost a whole week of memory, that I cannot get back’
KEEN crafter Rebecca Mullock, 31, from Paignton, Devon started taking Saxenda in January. She says:
“I ordered three pens for £150 from a well known high street chemist’s website.
“I’ve spent 15 years trying to lose weight and was excited to try them.
“Within a week I’d lost 6lb and my appetite had shrunk. Ten days in, a telly advert asked for donations for the war in Ukraine.
“I said to my husband Dave, 48, a machine operator, ‘What war?’ Dave said I had a panic attack but I’ve no recollection of it at all. At 3am I started having a seizure and he called an ambulance.
“I had an ECG, bloods done and an MRI and they couldn’t find anything conclusive that had caused it – I was terrified. As Saxenda was the only thing I’d started taking recently, they suggested it could have been caused by that.
“Seizures are listed as a rare side-effect, but it scared me enough to stop using them. It’s a shame because they were working – I’m 20st 7lb, but was 19st 3lb on them.
“I do wonder whether it should be so easy to get them. I didn’t speak to my GP before buying online, but they were from a reputable website.
“I lost a whole week of my memory and no one can tell me if I will get that back.”
WHO IS IN LINE FOR THE MAGIC NEEDLE?
DR ZOE WATSON explains what you need to know about weight-loss injections.
HOW CAN I GET THEM? Wegovy is coming, but it’s not here yet.
The NHS currently only offers Saxenda (liraglutide) and it’s only available on Tier 3 and Tier 4 weight-management services, which means you have to be referred to weight-management clinics led by experts.
GPs can’t prescribe them on their own either.
The jabs have to be taken as part of an overall programme to help with lifestyle changes and psychological support to get the best effect from the medication prescribed.
Unfortunately, only around 50 per cent of the country can access Tier 3 services, and Tier 4 (which includes bariatric or weight-loss surgery) is even less than that.
Even if you could access the jabs, the eligibility criteria according to Nice guidelines is:
- BMI of at least 35kg/m2
- You have non-diabetic hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar)
- You’re at high risk of heart problems such as heart attacks and strokes, for example, because you have high blood pressure (hypertension)
You need to meet all of those criteria to be eligible to access it on the NHS.
You can access it privately, but at a cost.
WILL WEGOVY CHANGE THINGS? The Nice guidance is due for review this year.
Wegovy is coming and will likely be available on the NHS, but it’s highly likely it will still only be available via Tier 3 and 4 services.
However, it will be available privately.
HOW MUCH WILL THEY COST? The jabs are extremely expensive when bought privately.
Taken weekly via injection to the stomach, Ozempic costs around £149 per pen per month, Wegovy around £180, and Saxenda is roughly £50 per pen, lasting a week to ten days.
CAN EVERYONE USE THEM? They’re not appropriate for pregnant women, those planning to get pregnant, or those with a personal or family history of a type of thyroid cancer.
ANY CONCERNS? I, and most GPs I know, think they’re an incredible option for obesity management when used in conjunction with other weight-management tools and wish they were cheaper and more widely available.