Sunderland's £88,000 anti-obesity drug bill
Over 3,000 prescriptions for the anti-obesity drug orlistat were issued to people in Sunderland last year, new figures show.
Data from the NHS OpenPrescribing service shows 3,360 prescriptions for the drug were handed out by GPs during 2022, at a total cost of £88,100 to the NHS.
Over the last five years, 14,550 prescriptions for orlistat were issued in the city – costing the NHS around £352,000.
The data emerged as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved the use of another weight loss drug, semaglutide, by NHS England.
Orlistat is currently the primary weight loss drug prescribed by the NHS and has been approved for use since 2010.
Commonly sold under the brand name Xenical, it can also be bought at a pharmacy where it must be taken under the supervision of a pharmacist and the tablets work by preventing around a third of fat from food being absorbed into the body.
In England, about 360,000 prescriptions for orlistat were issued in 2022.
Weight loss drug prescriptions cost the NHS £9.8m last year.
The Obesity Health Alliance has welcomed the approval of semaglutide, but said drugs alone will not be the answer to the UK’s extremely high levels of excess weight and the root cause must be tackled, including the level of unhealthy food and drink being marketed and promoted.
Semaglutide, sold under the brand name Wegovy, will be made available in NHS specialist weight management service and prescribed alongside a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.
Only adults who have at least two weight-related medical conditions and a high body mass index will be eligible for the injections.