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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Obesity drug to be available on NHS
Obese man
One in five Britons is clinically obese
A highly effective anti-obesity drug is to be made available on the NHS.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) announced on Wednesday that the drug Reductil (technical name sibutramine) should be made available on the NHS to certain groups of patients.

The drug will be offered to adults aged 18-65 who have made serious attempts to lose weight, and have either:

  • a body mass index of 30 or more
  • a body mass index of 27, coupled with diseases such as diabetes and high cholesterol
A person's body mass index is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared. A BMI of more than 30 is considered obese.

Obesity has a major impact on a person's physical, social and emotional well-being and future health

Professor Peter Littlejohns
Concern had been raised that demand for the drug may place a heavy financial burden on the NHS.

However, NICE said estimates suggest that even three years from launch only 45,100 patients would be taking its drug in the UK.

Professor Peter Littlejohns, who lead the NICE appraisal, said: "Obesity has a major impact on a person's physical, social and emotional well-being and future health.

"Doctors and patients need to work together to manage this condition and today's guidance provides advice on the contribution which sibutramine can make."

Appetite suppressant

NICE guidance
Treatment for more than four weeks if 2 kg in weight has been lost
Treatment should only continue beyond three months if at least 5% of body weight has been lost
Treatment is not recommended for more than 12 months
Blood pressure should be regularly monitored
Treatment is not recommended for people with high blood pressure
Reductil works by suppressing the appetite. It increases the speed at which the body feels full and this encourages weight loss.

Patients who take the drug lose on average 8% of their body weight after two years, and are three times as likely as patients who take a dummy pill to lose 10% of their body weight in the short term.

However, potential side effects include insomnia, constipation and a dry mouth.

Another slimming drug Orlistat, or Xenical as it better known, works by inhibiting the break down and absorption of fat in the body.

Dr Ian Campbell
Dr Ian Campbell says Reductil is vital to help obese patients
Xenical has recently been given the green light by NICE, who agreed that extremely obese adults who have already lost at least 2.5 kg by dieting will be allowed it.

Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the UK with nearly one in five people being classed as obese.

Almost half of all women aged 25 to 35 are on some kind of diet.

Yo-yo dieting

Nearly all dieters not only regain the weight they lost, but add on some more.

Other weight loss methods such as stomach stapling and liposuction can be dangerous.

Dr Ian Campbell, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: "I am very pleased by this decision.

"It is very difficult to achieve sustainable long-term weight loss, but medications such as Reductil make it much more likely, with all the benefits to health that will bring.

"If more drugs are available then that gives us added choice in the way that we treat patients."

See also:

24 May 01 | Health
New drug to beat obesity
30 May 01 | Health
Obesity epidemic warning
01 Jun 01 | Health
Anti-obesity drug 'works well'
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