An obesity expert is pushing for a new weight-loss drug to be piloted on the NHS in Scotland to find out whether it can help cut waiting lists and improve population health.

Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at Glasgow University who was this week appointed as the UK's Obesity Mission Chair, said he would like to see Scotland run a "complimentary" NHS trial of Wegovy to the one already initiated for NHS England.

The semaglutide-based slimming injections, popularised by celebrities such Elon Musk, were approved for use on the NHS in Scotland as a treatment for obesity in October.

READ MORE: 'We have to start tackling obesity as a disease in its own right' 

However - as in England - prescriptions are mostly limited to adults with a BMI of at least 30 plus one weight-related condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, who are also attending NHS-run weight-loss management clinics.

Concerns have been raised that this restriction will mean that thousands of eligible patients are unable to access the drug due to long waiting lists for these clinics or a postcode lottery of availability.

The Herald: Wegovy is administered as an injection once a weekWegovy is administered as an injection once a week (Image: PA)

A £40 million pilot by NHS England is trialling whether people could receive the weekly jabs through GP surgeries or pharmacies instead, with weight-loss support such as diet and exercise advice provided digitally via apps.

Announcing the plan in June, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the "game-changer" drugs could help "to cut NHS waiting lists" by reducing the burden of obesity-related health conditions.

READ MORE: Wegovy, weight loss, and Scotland's fight against obesity

Studies have shown that Wegovy - which mimics the effect of a human gut hormone to make patients feel full - can help patients shed up to 15% of their bodyweight while also substantially cutting the risk of heart attacks and strokes and improving heart failure symptoms.

Benefits have also been seen for chronic kidney disease, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, while trials are ongoing to investigate its impact on osteoarthritis, arterial disease and dementia in people living with obesity.

Reported side effects include nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea, and - much more rarely - intestinal blockage, stomach paralysis, and pancreatitis. 

Prof Sattar, in his UK Government-appointed role as Obesity Mission Chair, will oversee the research evaluation for the NHS England Wegovy trial.

The Herald: The drug works by slowing the progress of food through the gut, making patients feel full and thus suppressing their appetiteThe drug works by slowing the progress of food through the gut, making patients feel full and thus suppressing their appetite (Image: PA)

In an exclusive interview with the Herald, he said it would make sense to run a similar study in Scotland where one in three adults is living with obesity.

He said: "Our systems are very closely aligned so whatever learnings come from [the NHS England pilot] will be very valuable for Scotland.

"From a personal point of view, though, I would love it if we could speak with the Scottish Government to see whether we could run our own pilot scheme here that would be somewhat complimentary, but not necessarily completely overlapping.

"For research in any areas, one study is not necessarily the final, definitive study - you would get more if you had two studies, and you would get more confidence if the results were broadly similar.

"So it's something that I hope we can speak to colleagues north of the border about to see if that's possible as well."

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A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “In October, the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) approved  Wegovy® (semaglutide) for restricted use in the weight management of eligible patients living with obesity, as an additional treatment to a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.

“We are aware of the UK Government’s announcement of a pilot to support the local delivery of weight loss medication.

"There are currently no plans to replicate this is Scotland though we will look at the findings from the study in England when they are available.”