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Prescription weight loss medication: Who is eligible?

Diving into the science on these medications.

Prescription Weight Loss Medication: Who Is Eligible? | Juniper

If you lost a pound every time a well-meaning doctor, nurse, dietitian or elderly grandparent told you to "just lose some weight", then we're sure all your weight loss issues would have left you years ago.

Have you been told time and time again that simply dieting and exercising will shed those pounds? Have you started weight loss programmes that promise to help you lose weight but you keep putting pounds back on? Have you tried a low fat diet, eating no carbs or a keto style of eating and none of it works?

It's not your fault. As science has attested time and time again, weight loss is a lot more complicated than simply eating less and exercising more.

Your genetics and unique biology have a huge influence over how much weight you can gain or lose. Since two-thirds of adults in England alone are overweight or obese, we know you're not alone in your attempts at losing weight and keeping it off [1]. Weight loss just isn’t as simple as just exercising and avoiding carbs, sugar and fat.

Why can't I lose weight with exercise and diet?

Your weight is influenced by complex biological, psychosocial and environmental factors that need to be taken into consideration — it is not simply the result of a poor lifestyle.

In fact, up to 80% of your weight is genetic [2]. With this relatively new knowledge from Harvard Medical School, we can see that eating healthier and exercising isn’t enough to help people lose weight.

A theory, known as set point theory, helps to explain that this genetic influence is very much hardwired into our DNA. The theory says some people are born with a higher set point, which is the weight your body fights to maintain.

Despite the amount of exercise you're doing or the amount you're restricting your diet, your body will work against you, stopping you from losing as much weight as you'd like. Or, if you are successful at losing weight, your body will likely trigger strong weight regain responses via its hormones, undoing your hard work.

There are other factors that come into weight gain like stress, mental illness, poor sleep quality, physical injuries or other health conditions.

This is where prescription medications come in for weight loss [3]. Weight loss medications treat obesity and weight issues with appetite control and are becoming commonplace for healthcare professionals to distribute to people struggling to shed kilos.

You may be eligible for weight loss medicines prescribed by a Juniper pharmacist.

Can medications help you lose weight?

Yes, they certainly can. Juniper’s Weight Reset Programme uses scientifically-backed medicine to help you lose weight. We prescribe semaglutide because it is the most effective.

Semaglutide is the active ingredient in medications like Wegovy, which is used for weight management, and Ozempic, which is licensed for diabetes treatment in the UK.

Wegovy, which is one of our medication offerings, is clinically proven to reduce your appetite and make you feel fuller for longer, while also reducing cravings by targeting the rewards centre in the brain.

For long-term success, changing your eating and movement habits is also crucial, which is why we offer a comprehensive programme that includes 3 core pillars of lifestyle change with the assistance of our UK clinicians.

Our programme includes 1:1 health tracking as well as lifestyle and health coaching. Plus, you'll be able to access Juniper's private community of women who are on the same journey as you while also receiving the medication. We will offer you complete support on your weight loss journey, encouraging you to make healthy eating habits, to move more and to understand through science how to keep weight off for good.

How is semaglutide prescribed in the UK?

In the UK, Ozempic is licensed for the treatment of diabetes. Wegovy, on the other, is licensed for weight loss and weight management and contains the same active ingredient as Ozempic, called semaglutide.

In general, Wegovy is suitable for those who are considered to be clinically obese or significantly overweight with a weight-related health condition. The Juniper Reset Programme, which includes Wegovy as its prescription medication, may be a good fit for you if you're aged between 18 and 75 and:

  • You have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more (clinically obese); or
  • You have a body mass index of 27 or more (significantly overweight) and you also have a medical condition that is often caused, or made worse, by excess body weight.

Who shouldn’t use semaglutide for weight loss?

While most people can take semaglutide or Wegovy for weight loss safely, there are some medicines and medical conditions that might make it unsuitable for you due to increased safety risks [4].

Some of the reasons you shouldn't use semaglutide for weight loss (or we may need to give you special advice) include:

  • If you have an allergy to any of the ingredients;
  • If you have diabetes or take insulin or certain other medicines;
  • If you have kidney problems;
  • If you have certain digestive system problems;
  • If you are pregnant, currently breastfeeding or trying to have a baby.

This isn't a complete list, so when you have a consultation with a Juniper prescriber we'll make sure that semaglutide is suitable for your individual circumstances before prescribing it.

Are there side effects to semaglutide?

Any medications you take hold risks of side effects. Luckily, the side effects of these medications are relatively mild.

At the start, you may experience some nausea, fatigue, headaches, a dry mouth, constipation or diarrhoea. Nausea is the most common side effect and should lessen over time. Any serious side effects are extremely rare and will be monitored by our practitioners.

As part of our Weight Reset Programme, our team of UK pharmacists, clinicians and health coaches will be keeping a close eye on you to make sure any side effects are minimal, and you can always speak to them if you have concerns.

How much weight will you lose after taking semaglutide?

It is difficult to confirm the exact amount of weight you will lose on semaglutide or Wegovy since every person's body is different. Each person's lifestyle changes will look different and include different levels of exercise habits that will contribute to your overall weight loss.

However, in a 2020 study from the International Journal of Obesity [4], patients using this medication lost 12.1% of their body weight in one year. In another study from 2017, 76.1% of participants had lost more than 5% of body weight at 20 weeks, and 28.3% had lost more than 10% [5].

Taking these medications in tandem with health coaching, which comes included in the Juniper Weight Reset Programme, makes weight loss considerably easier — you do not have to do this on your own.

How long should you take semaglutide?

This will vary from person to person depending on their individual circumstances and your Juniper clinicians will monitor your progress closely to ensure these prescription medications are working.

If you are effectively losing weight at the 12-week mark and you aren't experiencing any side effects, your clinician will usually give you the green light to continue for at least 9 months and up to 1 year [3].

This time frame is considered the most effective for prolonged weight loss, according to clinical evidence [6]. Keep in mind that there are no quick fixes for weight loss, even with a proven medication.

Weight loss requires time, energy and, most importantly, a solid, scientific background to ensure you are not harming your body or priming yourself for significant weight regain.

In a nutshell

There are plenty of options for weight loss management out there, varying from lifestyle changes to surgery. It can be difficult to choose the best option for you or to understand which ones will be grounded in science and help you sustainably keep weight off for good.

Weight-loss medications are a far less intrusive option than weight loss surgery and are a helpful addition to a diet and exercise change you might be making in your life. They are proven to be a safe and effective option for long-term weight management.

Before making any decision about your health, talk to a trusted doctor or healthcare professional.

Juniper offers an accessible and easy option for accessing UK clinicians. We can help you break habits that might be impacting your weight and help you hit your weight loss goals sooner.