RCPsych response to the availability of semaglutide treatment in England

Statement / comment
09 March 2023

The National Institute for Health and Care and Excellence (NICE) has published its guidance on semaglutide treatment in England.

The medication is due to be made available as part of treatment in specialist NHS services, as well as on the High Street.

Dr Agnes Ayton, Chair of the Faculty of Eating Disorders at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

"Semaglutide medication provides an opportunity to support better outcomes for those patients for whom prescribing is appropriate, and it is encouraging to see that the NHS rollout will be in accordance with NICE recommendations. These include the requirement for patients to have an existing co-morbidity alongside a high BMI threshold, as well as only being used with the support of a multi-disciplinary team via specialist weight management services.

“We are aware that some messaging framing semaglutide as a quick-fix weight loss aid may act as a potential trigger for those living with an eating disorder and poses a real danger for abuse of the medication by those for whom there is no clinical need to use it.

“With this in mind, we would like to see measures put in place for safeguards regarding High Street availability of this medication, to ensure appropriate prescribing. Quick-fix weight loss messaging has been linked to high demand for this product in the US, amid reports of shortages.

"It is important to remember that this comes at a time when eating disorder services are already struggling. In England, there were 29,024 hospital admissions for patients with an eating disorder in the year 2021/22, a 38% rise from the same period in the previous year.

“We hope to see measures put in place to make sure semaglutide medication is available for patients who have a genuine clinical need, with appropriate support and monitoring available to them.”

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