The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Conditional and controlled introduction of weight loss injections

  • By The Swiss Times
  • 9 November 2023

One and a half years after its approval by the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products Swissmedic, the weight loss injection Wegovy is available in Switzerland for the first time this week. The launch is being carried out on a quota basis and in a controlled manner.

Conditional and controlled introduction of weight loss injections
 (KEYSTONE/Novo Nordisk via AP)

These restrictions will remain in place for the foreseeable future, as Irène Stephan, media officer of the Danish manufacturing group Novo Nordisk for Switzerland, confirmed on Wednesday in an article in the Tamedia newspapers.

Patients should only receive the medicine within the indications specified by Swissmedic and under medical supervision. The prerequisite is therefore obesity with a body mass index (BMI) of over 30 or a BMI of 27 to 30 with at least one weight-related concomitant disease. In addition, according to the medicines authority Swissmedic, a reduction in calories and measures for more exercise are also required.

Not a lifestyle drug

Novo Nordisk wants to prevent misuse as a lifestyle drug. Stephan told the Keystone-SDA news agency that the company is “very concerned that weight management drugs are prescribed responsibly in accordance with the approval”.

The company is in contact with the specialists so that people with the highest needs are given priority and their care is ensured.

The pharmaceutical company expressly recommends prescribing the medication only within the scope of the marketing authorization. In Switzerland, however, the recommendation and dispensing of prescription drugs is at the discretion of doctors.

Hype leads to bottlenecks

The fact that the drug is only coming to Switzerland a year and a half after being approved for the treatment of obesity is due to production bottlenecks caused by excessive demand. Following the launch of Wegovy in the USA two years ago, there was huge hype surrounding this and other weight loss injections, in particular the diabetes 2 drug Ozempic, also from Novo Nordisk.

The hype was triggered by testimonials in the social media. In approval studies, test subjects lost an average of 12.5 percent of their body weight. Thanks to its slimming injections, the Danish pharmaceutical manufacturer is now the most valuable company in Europe.

Compulsory health insurance in clarification

It was not clear on Wednesday whether Wegovy would be added to the list of specialty medicines reimbursed by health insurance companies. According to Stephan, talks were underway with the responsible Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

Should the injection become subject to compulsory health insurance, the FOPH would set the price by means of a cross-comparison with other medicines for the same indications and by comparing prices abroad.

The price of non-prescription medicines is based on the factory price and the pharmacy’s sales margin, over which the manufacturer has no influence. Wegovy must be administered once a week. According to the Tamedia newspapers, a monthly dose costs CHF 300 in Germany.

Appetite-suppressing effect

The active ingredient in Wagovy is semaglutide. It triggers a hormone that curbs appetite and stimulates the release of insulin. Semaglutide was originally developed for the treatment of diabetes 2 and is available under the name Ozempic.

Wagovy contains a higher dose of the active ingredient than Ozempic. The weight reduction effect and the hype surrounding it also led to shortages of Ozempic, which is actually intended for diabetes 2 patients.

According to the Federal Statistical Office’s Health Survey 2022, 31% of the population over the age of 15 in Switzerland are overweight and 12% are obese.

©Keystone/SDA

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