Pharmacist and IP Ali Hashemian is director of Bath and District Pharmacy Limited, which owns Pulteney Pharmacy and Bathampton Pharmacy in Bath. He tells Saša Janković about the benefits his customers are seeing from their weight loss service
Service type: Weight loss clinic
Name and location of pharmacy: Pulteney Pharmacy, Bath
Name of pharmacist: Ali Hashemian
Why did you start offering this service?
We started offering this service in April 2021. There were a number of reasons why we chose to offer Saxenda as a weight management option to our patients. It’s quick and effective, and it doesn’t have the side effects of some of the other medications such as orlistat. Patients get to see a trend of weight loss every couple of weeks, so it quickly becomes apparent to them that they are losing weight, which helps motivate them to eat better and exercise more as well.
How much did it cost to set up the service?
We already had a PGD in place, so it didn’t cost any more to set up this service apart from my time to train on the product.
What, if any, training did you or other team members have to undergo?
I undertook the necessary training with Voyager Medical, a supplier of Saxenda, as well as working through extra resources with the Saxenda rep.
In a nutshell, what does the service involve?
We promote the service on our website and in store. There is a specific patient group for the service – you have to have a BMI of 30 or more, or 27 or more with some associated health conditions – so if people are interested, we will have an initial chat with them in the pharmacy to discuss their options for weight management and see if Saxenda is appropriate. If they do qualify, we will then arrange a consultation with them to explain how the process works, and supply them with five injector pens to use at home, which lasts them for six weeks.
Like any other medicine, Saxenda can cause side effects and so it’s important that we see the patient for regular follow-ups to make sure they are not having any problems. This is also why these medicines shouldn’t be bought online, as the pharmacist needs to be able to monitor the patient on a regular basis to make sure they are still suitable to carry on with the medication. If there are any problems, or they are not losing weight, then they need to come off, and if they hit their weight loss target and their BMI falls below the required level for Saxenda they also stop.
If patients do have a BP monitor and scales at home, I’ll ask them to let me know their reading every week by phone or email, but we find they like to come into the pharmacy to keep us informed and tell us about their achievements so far.
Are there any opportunities to sell OTC or prescription products during or after the consultation?
For us, this service is not really about selling products, it’s about the long-term health benefits to the patient – and the NHS. Having high BMI directly contributes to CV and BP problems, and diabetes, so losing weight has a huge impact on patients’ long-term health, and as a direct result save the NHS money.
The GP CPCS is making us quite well known to new patients, and during these consultations we get the chance to speak to them about other services – such as weight loss – that could help them.
How have patients responded to the service?
The patients are really happy, especially if they have tried other weight loss products that haven’t worked or weren’t suitable. In fact, one of them is has been so successful that she wants us to use her before and after pictures to promote the service.
Roughly how often each month do you carry out the service?
We have two people using the Saxenda service at the moment, and it is early days for us. Both have lost a considerable amount of weight already without any problems, and of course we are keeping a close eye on them to make sure they keep up with their better diet and exercise as well.
How much do you charge for the service?
£280 for five pens.
Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?
Yes, absolutely. I think it’s a very important service to provide, especially as we are seeing a considerable number of patients who have put on weight during lockdown that they wouldn’t have otherwise and are finding difficult to lose.
Read more case studies on healthy living services.