The UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has released guidance recommending the use of a new treatment for pre-diabetic obese adults who have a ‘high risk’ of developing cardiovascular disease.

Liraglutide (Saxenda) will only be offered to eligible adults alongside lifestyle changes, such as a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.

Obese adults with non-diabetic hyperglycaemia and who have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 35 kg can be prescribed the pre-filled injection pens in a secondary care setting for up to two years, NICE said.

However, if the person prescribed the medication has not lost at least 5% of his or her body weight after 12 weeks the treatment should be discontinued, the draft guidance explained.

‘Superior weight loss’

The drug achieved ‘superior weight loss’ in clinical trials, according to the manufacturer Novo Nordisk.

The manufacturer has offered the drug to the NHS on a discount, after NICE had previously not been able to recommend the treatment because the cost-effectiveness estimate was ‘highly uncertain’.

The announcement follows the Government’s publication of its latest obesity strategy, which described Covid-19 as a ‘wake-up call’ after research found people living with obesity faced a greater risk of more severe outcomes from the virus.

According to analysis conducted by Diabetes UK, one in 10 people over 40 in the UK are currently living with type 2 diabetes.

‘More treatment options needed’

Meindert Boysen, deputy chief executive and director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at NICE, said: “There is a real need for more treatment options for obese adults with non-diabetic hyperglycaemia who have a high risk of experiencing the adverse consequences of obesity, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

He added: ‘Our independent committee was presented with clinical evidence which showed that people lose more weight with liraglutide plus lifestyle measures than with lifestyle measures alone. Liraglutide may also delay the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease and this is the main benefit of treatment.’