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Thursday 27th October 2016

Obesity drug launched

30th June 2006

A drug which treats obesity by reducing the desire to eat has been launched in the UK - but NHS chiefs warned people not to expect immediate access.

Rimonabant is the first drug to target factors governing the body's appetite, metabolism and energy use. Trials showed it can reduce weight by a tenth.

UK experts said it could not replace healthy food and regular exercise.  And the NHS has said not to expect it to become widely available straight away as the cost-effectiveness of the pill needed to be assessed.

In the UK, it is estimated that one in five men and a quarter of women are obese.

But at a cost of over £55 for a month's treatment, it could end up costing the NHS billions of pounds of money. The drug still has to be assessed by NHS advisers the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which is not expected for another two years.

Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said primary care trusts may be reluctant to prescribe the drug ahead of NICE guidance.

The drug's manufacturer, Sanofi Aventis, has argued the drug represents good value for money when set against the £7bn per year cost of tacking obesity.

Other anti-obesity drugs are already available, but rimonabant is the only one to target the endocannabinoid system, which governs the body's appetite.

In a series of trials involving more than 6,000 patients in the US and Europe, a quarter lost more than 10 per cent of their initial body weight after a year. About half lost more than 5 per cent.

Rimonabant, sold under the brand name Acomplia, is currently licensed for the treatment of obese patients, or overweight patients with associated risk factors such as type 2 diabetes or poor cholesterol and triglyceride readings.

There is also trial data suggesting that the drug can help people give up smoking by overcoming their cravings.


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