Novo Nordisk's popular weight loss drug Wegovy set for UK launch after cost watchdog's blessing

As Novo Nordisk’s weight loss drug Wegovy makes waves in Hollywood, the craze could soon spread across the pond to the U.K.

Novo Nordisk is working to make Wegovy available in the U.K. as soon as possible, a company spokesperson told Fierce Pharma. No official launch date has been set, the spokesperson said.

The Danish company is getting ready to launch after England’s drug cost watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), on Wednesday gave its official thumbs-up to Wegovy coverage.

Following up on previous draft guidance, NICE has recommended Wegovy for adults who have a body mass index (BMI) as low as 30 kg/m2 and at least one weight-related comorbidity. Diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, obstructive sleep apnea, and cardiovascular disease qualify as comorbidities. Patients can take the once-weekly injection for up to two years.

For people with a BMI between 30 to 34.9, only those at the highest risk should be considered for treatment under a special weight management service, NICE said. These patients have complex disease states or have failed on conventional treatment.

For those with a BMI of at least 35, Wegovy will be available through an NHS weight specialist, NICE said.

NICE’s BMI requirement is stricter than Wegovy’s European label. The U.K. Medicines and Health Products Regulations Agency approved Wegovy in September 2021 to treat people with a BMI as low as 27, accompanied by at least one weight-related comorbidity.

In the STEP 1 trial, Wegovy takers lost an average 12.4 percentage points of extra body weight compared with the placebo group.

Wegovy is a welcome option for people who face challenge losing weight, Helen Knight, director of medicines evaluation at NICE, said in a statement Wednesday.

“It won’t be available to everyone,” Knight added. “Our committee has made specific recommendations to ensure it remains value for money for the taxpayer, and it can only be used for a maximum of two years.”

About 28% of adults in England were obese in 2019, according to a survey cited by NICE. A BMI of 30 is typically considered the threshold for obesity.

NICE drafted its final guidance in June 2022 but wasn’t able to make it official until now because Novo had delayed Wegovy’s launch, NICE said. Novo was dealing with a shortage for Wegovy and its sister diabetes med Ozempic last year thanks to high demand. The company has recently resolved the constraint and launched Wegovy in Europe.

The U.K. launch comes amid a wave of support for Wegovy and Ozempic from celebrities and influencers in the U.S. For instance, last year, Elon Musk tweeted that he used Wegovy for weight loss.

He wasn't alone in publicly endorsing the drug.

“Like when celebrities say they lost weight by drinking water, but really it’s because everyone's on Ozempic,” comedian Chelsea Handler joked during her opening monologue at the Critics' Choice Awards in January.