UNITED KINGDOM: Analysts have revealed that the World Health Organization’s “essential medicines list” may include medications that treat obesity, as reported by the U.N. body.
An updated list of critical medicines is due in September, and a panel of WHO advisers will consider any new requests for medications to be included starting next month.
Three physicians and a researcher in the United States requested that obesity medications be taken into consideration. It addresses Saxenda, an obesity medication from Novo Nordisk (NOVOb.CO), which may shortly lose its exclusivity for the active ingredient liraglutide, allowing for less expensive generic alternatives.
The panel had the option of declining the request or requesting more information. A decision by the WHO to add Saxenda and potential generics to the list would signal a change in how the health organisation approaches the problem of global obesity.
Novo Nordisk may consider Wegovy for low- and middle-income nations. Public health experts advise against making medications available for complex illnesses.
A WHO representative stated that “obesity is an increasingly significant health problem in many nations. Of course, prevention is just as important as therapy for obesity and is simply one part of management.”
The WHO will review the evidence for liraglutide and consider additional weight-loss therapies. It estimates that there are over 650 million obese adults and 1.3 billion overweight people globally, with 70% living in low- and middle-income nations.
It may be extremely important for that community if obesity medications are included in the WHO’s list of essential medications. According to experts, the inclusion of HIV medications on the list in 2002 contributed to their increased availability to AIDS patients in developing nations.
The lack of weight-loss medicines, they contend, shows a “discrepancy” in global health equality given the rising number of fatalities caused by weight-related illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, in poorer countries, even if the list contains supplements for nutritional deficiencies. Saxenda can help patients lose 5–10% of their body weight.
Users of Wegovy, a once-weekly injection that costs more than $1,300 a month in the United States, have seen weight loss of up to 15%. Wego is now in short supply, and Novo is giving the United States and other wealthy markets priority when it comes to its debut and distribution. The Danish manufacturer was not involved in the application to include liraglutide on the WHO list.
GLP-1 receptor agonists are used to treat diabetes by interfering with the brain’s ability to process hunger signals and reducing the rate at which the stomach empties. A comparable diabetes medication for weight loss is almost approved by Eli Lilly and Co. Saxenda and Wegovy may need to be taken for the rest of their lives to keep the weight off.
High-income nations are debating whether to allow government-sponsored health systems to prescribe medications or cover the cost of them through insurance, but only the most vulnerable populations are allowed to use them. Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta suggests understanding obesity in low- and middle-income nations to determine the best course of action.
“The use of obesity medications, preventive methods, ongoing educational initiatives, and gender-focused programmes must be prioritised,” he stated.
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