Weight loss drug semaglutide added to list of medicines that cannot be exported or ‘hoarded’

The list contains products that meet the needs of UK patients but may contribute to medicines shortages if they were exported.
Man injecting semaglutide

The weight loss drug semaglutide has been added to the list of medicines that cannot be parallel exported from the UK or “hoarded”.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) added semaglutide in all strengths — as well as dulaglutide and exenatide in all strengths; liraglutide 6mg/mL solution for injection; and insulin degludec + liraglutide, 100units/mL + 3.6mg/ml solution for injection — on 16 June 2023.

The list, which is reviewed on an ongoing basis, contains any product that meets the following criteria:

  • The medicine is required to meet the needs of UK patients;
  • The medicine is either being parallel exported or is at threat of being parallel exported;
  • The export of that medicine is either contributing to, or may contribute to, a shortage of that medicine in the UK.

Semaglutide, marketed in the UK as Wegovy by manufacturer Novo Nordisk, has not yet been launched in the UK but was recommended in March 2023 by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for a maximum of two years in people with obesity with one weight-related comorbidity, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) or hypertension.

The NICE guidance states that semaglutide can only be used as part of tier 3 or 4 NHS weight loss services, which offer comprehensive dietary, lifestyle and behaviour modification support.

However, in June 2023 the UK government announced that GPs will soon be able to prescribe Wegovy weight loss injections as part of a £40m pilot to test its initiation in non-hospital settings.

Speaking to The Pharmaceutical Journal on 20 June 2023, a spokesperson for NovoNordisk said: “Wegovy (semaglutide 2.4mg) is not available on the NHS or privately in the UK. We do not yet have a confirmed date for launch, we are working to make Wegovy available in the UK as soon as possible.”

A spokesperson for the DHSC also told The Pharmaceutical Journal on 20 June 2023 that the list of medicines subject to export and hoarding restrictions is “one of the tools we have to support the mitigation and management of medicine supply issues to help ensure people can continue to access the medicines they need”.

Although semaglutide marketed as Wegovy is yet to be available in the UK, the drug marketed as Ozempic (injectable) and Rybelsus (tablet form, both Novo Nordisk), is available in the UK, for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

  • This article was updated on 5 July 2023 to clarify that semaglutide is available in the UK, just not the Wegovy version
Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2023, Vol 310, No 7974;310(7974)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2023.1.189344

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