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Inside politics

A game-changer for the NHS?

Kim Kardashian: one of many rumoured celebrity users of Ozempic. Gotham/Getty

This week, the government “finally had a good news announcement”, says Katy Balls in the I newspaper. The weight-loss wonder-drug Ozempic – which is already being used by at least two former Cabinet ministers, according to one top Tory – will be offered for free as part of a pilot scheme across the NHS. The appetite suppressant is currently available to buy, but the hefty price tag (around £90 a month) means it’s out of reach for most people. By splashing out £40m on the drug – under the brand name Wegovy – the government could help many of the UK’s 35 million overweight and obese people lose more than 15% of their body weight.

As Rishi Sunak put it, this could be the “game-changer” the health service needs. NHS England currently guzzles £180bn a year, a good chunk of which goes on treating preventable illnesses linked to obesity: more than £5bn on type 2 diabetes alone. What’s more, officials hope helping people lose weight will have the “eventual knock-on effect” of getting some of the five million who have left their jobs citing health reasons back into the workforce. This is clearly not an “overnight policy”, and only time will tell how many people take up the free jabs. But it’s the most promising solution to the “obesity epidemic” in decades.