Pharmacy is ideally placed to offer patients support on losing and managing their weight.
There are a variety of services and tools at a pharmacist’s fingertips but the key is matching the right one to the right patient, writes Catherine Cooper.
Join us each day this week as we reveal our special obesity feature.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, one in four British adults is obese and the UK has the highest level of obesity in Western Europe.
Obesity levels in the UK have more than trebled in the past thirty years and it is estimated that more than half of the British population could be obese by 2050.
A 2014 study commissioned by consultancy McKinsey and Company found that obesity costs the country almost £47 billion a year – second only in economic impact to smoking.
There are several ways in which pharmacists can help their customers manage their weight. Sometimes guidance, encouragement and nutritional advice can be extremely effective, while for others, drugs or clinical treatments may work better.
Sid Dajani is superintendant pharmacist at Wainwright’s Chemist in Bishopstoke, Hampshire, and has been offering weight management programmes for fifteen years.
He has helped around 400 people lose weight and says 97 per cent have reached their target weight.
Over the years he has tried various approaches including partnerships with local gyms and grocers, but has found most success with a simple questionnaire followed by a series of consultations for which he charges £25 per month.
“At the first consultation the customer will be weighed and measured, I’ll take their blood glucose level and blood pressure and we’ll work out some realistic expectations,” he explains.
"The questionnaire helps me understand their motivation which in turn helps me decide what’s best for them. I’ll then talk about some small lifestyle changes that I’ll suggest they make bit by bit.
"At the first session we’ll talk about eating less fat, at the next, controlling portion size, and at the next, introducing exercise. Clearly this will vary – for an elderly or disabled person it might be chair exercises.
"Everyone is different and we work as a partnership. I weigh and measure them after one month, then three, then six, and record all the results in a spreadsheet.”
Around 53 per cent of Dajani’s weight management patients are also referred to their GP at some point – sometimes because a problem such as high blood pressure or glucose levels have been picked up in the consultations, or simply because their medications need to be reviewed following weight loss.
It isn’t uncommon for people with Type 2 diabetes to be able to stop taking medication following significant weight loss. “The scheme more than pays for itself and I don’t have to employ anyone extra to do it – I simply fit it in alongside our other services.”
Other popular options include clinical treatments such as Xenical/orlistat or Alli, which prevent a certain percentage of fat being absorbed into the body. Xenical is only available on prescription or via a patient group direction in some pharmacies, while Alli can be bought over the counter.
Other customers may prefer meal replacement systems such as SlimFast or Lipotrim. Whichever weight management aids a customer is planning to use, it’s important both to take their medical history to check it is safe for them to use and also to ensure that they are realistic about their expectations.
Come back tomorrow for more on integrating weight management services.