Draft guidance from NICE has recommended semaglutide for patients with obesity who are being treated by a specialist weight management service.
It follows a trial in which patients taking the once-weekly injection lost an average of 12% of their body weight compared with placebo after a year.
Those eligible for the treatment under the recommendations now out for consultation are adults with at least one weight-related health condition and a BMI of at least 35 kg/m2.
In exceptions it may also be available to those with a lower BMI of 30.0 kg/m2 or more, NICE said.
The drug will only be available as part of a tier 3 weight management programme or tier 4 specialist obesity services and for a maximum of two years under the guidelines.
Semaglutide which is also known as Wegovy, suppresses appetite by mimicking glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and making people feel full. It follows the approval of liraglutide last year, which lead to warnings from GPs they could see an influx of patients requesting the new treatment.
It has been estimated that 28% of adults in England are obese at a cost of £6.1 billion to the NHS and £27 million to wider society.
A lower BMI threshold (usually reduced by 2.5 kg/m2) has been recommended for people from south Asian, Chinese, and Black African or Caribbean family backgrounds, following recommendations in NICE’s guideline on preventing ill health and premature death in black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups.
After assessing the evidence, the committed concluded: ‘There is a large unmet need for many people living with obesity, and that semaglutide would be a welcome new treatment option.’
Helen Knight, programme director in the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE, said: ‘We know that management of overweight and obesity is one of the biggest challenges our health service is facing with nearly two thirds of adults either overweight or obese.
‘But in recent years NICE has been able to recommend a new line of pharmaceutical treatments which have shown that those people using them, alongside changes to their diet and exercise, have been able to reduce their weight.’
Last year, NHS England announced a £20m funding envelope for a new weight management enhanced service for GPs to refer obese patients. Under NICE guidance, a quarter of all patients would be eligible, however NHS England later said GPs would receive an ‘allocation’ of slots into which they could refer patients.