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What would ditching anti-obesity measures mean for pharmacy weight-loss services?

Pharmacies in England have seen their weight-loss service demand boom in recent months, amid concerns that the government is planning on scrapping its entire anti-obesity strategy.

C+D understands the government has commissioned an internal summary of its obesity policy, while the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) is monitoring the impact of restricting the promotion of junk food in light of the soaring cost of living.

But critics have warned that the move “is completely unsustainable” and may trigger increased demand for pharmacies’ already popular weight loss services.


“Potential for HLPs has been forgotten”


Manor Pharmacy Group pharmacist and managing director Graham Phillips told C+D that the chain’s weight loss ‘ProLongevity Programme’ has recently seen “a lot” more inquiries.

“Pre-COVID-19, people wanted more stuff and I think post-COVID-19, there's an understanding that, actually, health is wealth,” he added.

While he acknowledged that plans to drop the obesity strategy may in one sense be “good” for community pharmacies because “we will be dispensing more prescriptions…you could say this is mad. This is completely insane”, he added.

He believes the move would signal “a world turned upside down. It's completely unsustainable”, he said.

Read more: The pharmacist helping patients feel better without medicines

Dropping anti-obesity measures may also see pharmacies face rising demand for other services, he warned, as far more patients are already presenting with symptoms of dementia, cancer, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

“People are getting fatter and sicker and more diabetic by the day,” he added.

“The potential for healthy living pharmacies (HLPs) has just been forgotten,” he told C+D. “I would like every HLP to have a commissioned [weight loss] service.”


Superdrug to support patients if anti-obesity measures scrapped


Meanwhile, Superdrug confirmed to C+D that its “popular” weight loss service saw “immediate interest from the general public” from its launch earlier this year in May.

“We ensure our weight loss service operates to a high clinical standard and have a team of General Medical Council-registered doctors who assess every individual to ascertain, as well as possible, whether the medication is suitable before prescribing,” they added.

The multiple told C+D that if national anti-obesity measures are scrapped, it is “here to support people with their healthcare needs throughout the year, including access to our weight loss service”.

Read more: Thérèse Coffey: What is the new health secretary’s history with pharmacy?

A spokesperson for Lloydspharmacy told C+D that its medicated weight loss service “has proven incredibly popular for patients”.

It is “important to make this kind of support easily accessible for the people that will benefit from them most”, they told C+D.

“That’s why we are also preparing to launch the service online via Lloydspharmacy Online Doctor in the coming weeks.”


DH: “Addressing obesity remains a priority”


A government spokesperson told C+D that “addressing obesity remains a priority for the government”.

They added: “Having a fit and healthy population is essential for a thriving economy and we remain committed to doing everything we can to help people live healthier lives.”

Last week, a coalition of 70 health organisations – including the British Medical Association, Diabetes UK and British Heart Foundation – wrote to prime minister Liz Truss to express their “profound concern” over plans to abandon the strategy.

During the Conservative leadership race, Ms Truss pledged to scrap the delayed plan to ban multi-buy deals for unhealthy products and not to introduce any new taxes on junk food.

According to figures released by the Office of National Statistics earlier this month, food inflation is running at 13.1% – the highest rate since August 2008. Household budgets are also being squeezed by spiralling energy costs.


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