NHS URGES PHARMACIES NOT TO SELL WEIGHT-LOSS INJECTIONS ONLINE WITHOUT SEEING PATIENTS

NHS chiefs have urged pharmacies such as Boots and Superdrug to stop selling weight-loss injections online without seeing patients, after warnings that prescriptions are being issued to those of healthy weight.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, made the intervention after warning that the jabs should not be used as a “quick fix for people trying to get ‘beach body ready’”.

Last week senior medics warned that A&E units were now treating casualties of Wegovy injections – marketed as Ozempic for diabetes – on a daily basis.

Doctors said they were seeing increasing numbers of slim young girls ending up in A&E suffering ill-effects, including pancreatitis, after lying to online pharmacies in order to pass eligibility checks.

The jabs are only licensed for those with a BMI of at least 30, the threshold for obesity, or 27, for those with certain health conditions.

But in recent weeks there have been a slew of reports of young slim women obtaining the injections, after lying about their weight.

Today Prof Powis raised concerns about a “lack of safeguards from online pharmacies selling weight-loss drugs”.

He said: “The NHS is also concerned about reports of young women ending up in A&E after using false information about their weight to buy the medication online.

“So online pharmacies and clinics need to act responsibly; they should have safeguards in place, including checking a person’s weight in person to keep patients safe.”

Labour also said it would look at introducing “much closer regulation” of the medication, with Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, saying he fears a death from its misuse.

False information

The latest invention came after a reporter for The Times told how she obtained Wegovy from Superdrug and Boots after entering false information online, adding three stone to her true weight.

Although the purchases required the injections to be collected from the store, neither pharmacy carried out any in-person checks before handing over the appetite-suppressing drug, charging nearly £200 for a month’s supply.

In response, Boots announced that from today its Online Doctor weight-loss service will require patients to submit additional photographs of themselves wearing “fitting clothing” before approving prescriptions.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health and social care secretary, said: “It is shocking that people are able to access weight-loss drugs online without having their need properly assessed by a doctor or pharmacist in person. I live in fear that one day someone will die because of misusing these drugs.”

Dr Vicky Price, president-elect of the Society for Acute Medicine, said there was a need for “urgent regulation and control” of how weight-loss drugs were supplied.

On Wednesday a spokesman for Boots said: “The Boots online doctor weight loss service is for patients aged 18 and over and who meet certain BMI [body mass index] criteria. The process already requires patients to provide photo ID and confirm that all information provided is honest, complete and accurate. 

“The patient’s GP is informed of the prescription. From tomorrow, we will also ask patients completing an online consultation to provide additional photographs of themselves, including front and side full body shots wearing fitting clothing.”

A Superdrug spokesman said: “At Superdrug Online Doctor, ensuring the safety of our patients is paramount. Our safeguarding protocols are designed to be more comprehensive than those typically found in online medical services. We rely on the integrity and honesty of our patients when they provide personal health information.”

Last week Dr Price said medics were treating patients suffering serious problems, such as pancreatitis and ketoacidosis, after taking injections they should never have been prescribed.

She said: “Almost every shift I’ve done recently has seen a complication from a young girl taking the new weight-loss drugs that they’ve bought from an online pharmacy.

“None have been overweight. They’ve paid £100-£200 and just lied about their weight.”

Severe obesity

Wegovy is the brand name for semaglutide.

It is one in a new class of weight-loss drugs which in recent weeks have shown remarkable promise in reducing the risk of other health problems, including cutting deaths from heart attacks by a fifth.

It is only available on the NHS for severe obesity, but is on sale privately from online clinics for those who reach lower thresholds.

The drugs have never been tested in clinical trials on those who are a healthy weight.

One medic last week told Chemist + Druggist magazine that they had treated several such patients, including one who ended up in intensive care after presenting with pancreatitis.

By the time the patient arrived in A&E, she could not stand up and appeared about to pass out after struggling to eat while on the jabs.

The doctor said she was not at all overweight, but said they found “two or three” online pharmacies that allowed them to bypass the rules.

“I just look at these young, beautiful girls. Oh, my word… it really makes me very sad,” the medic said.

“At some point, we’re going to have a death, aren’t we? And then at that point, people might do something about it.”

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2024-06-20T11:03:30Z dg43tfdfdgfd