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‘It terrifies me’: Girl landed in A&E after buying Wegovy from Boots

An A&E doctor has told C+D that on “every” recent shift, a patient who should not be on weight loss drugs has presented with complications after illicitly obtaining Wegovy.  

A “young girl” had to be treated in A&E after presenting with life threatening symptoms after taking weight loss drug Wegovy obtained through Boots Online Doctor, an A&E doctor told C+D this week (June 10).

The doctor, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed that the girl came into A&E “feeling unwell, like she was going to pass out and couldn't stand up…she was really struggling to eat”.

They told C+D that she was “not at all” overweight, but had obtained Wegovy after she’d “gone online, filled in the form and then got a months’ worth” – “she'd spent £150 or something.”

They claimed that they were “absolutely staggered” to learn that the girl had got the drugs from Boots Online Doctor.

A Boots spokesperson stressed that patient safety is the multiple’s “number one priority” and that it has “a number of safeguards in place”. Read their full response below.

The doctor told C+D that she presented with “starvation ketoacidosis so she just needed some urgent treatment” and “really strong counselling on the potential side effects that include death”.

Read more: Wegovy online prescription warning - pharmacists threatened by GPhC action

They claimed that the incident is part of a growing pattern, adding that “in the last month or two, every time [they had] done a shift pretty much [they] had some patient who, to a lesser or greater degree, is having a complication from getting these weight loss drugs” - in many cases from an online pharmacy or private beauty clinic.

“Without fail, none of them would fit the criteria at all,” they claimed, adding that another patient had “ended up going to intensive care” after obtaining weight loss drugs and presenting with pancreatitis. 

Other acute doctors have raised similar concerns on social media.


“All you have to do is lie”


The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has said that semaglutide, the generic name for Wegovy, should “only” be used by patients with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 35 and “at least one weight-related comorbidity” or who meet other specific guidelines.

But the A&E doctor told C+D that they found “two or three” online pharmacies that allowed them to bypass the rules.

“All you have to do is lie,” they claimed – adding that on Boots Online Doctor “there was some sort of questionnaire where it's very easy”.

“Boots asks for a photo of you, but obviously I could put any photo of an overweight person on,” they told C+D.

“And then they also asked for your GP” as a “safety mechanism” – but “GPs are currently under a huge amount of strain [so] I can't imagine that they're going through all these,” they claimed.

They added that “a lot of the GPs…wouldn't actually know” the patient, “especially for young people who've never been to the GP practice”.

“That’s what really worries me, because I think that will be their get-out clause,” they claimed. 


“It really makes me very sad”


“They're really dangerous drugs - it's shocking,” the doctor told C+D.

“It isn't people who need those drugs that are doing this. This is people with probably an element of eating disorder and body dysmorphia and that's what terrifies me,” they claimed.

“I just look at these young, beautiful girls. Oh, my word…it really makes me very sad,” they said. 

“At some point, we're going to have a death, aren't we? And then at that point, people might do something about it,” they told C+D.

“It would just be really lovely if we could actually do something prior to that happening through common sense and recognising this is grossly wrong,” they said.


Boots: “Patient safety is our number one priority”


A Boots spokesperson told C+D today (June 12) that it was “concerned to hear about this case and would like to investigate it fully”, encouraging the patient or doctor to contact it “as soon as possible”.

“Patient safety is our number one priority,” they said, adding that the multiple has “a number of safeguards in place to ensure Boots Online Doctor prescribes weight loss medication where clinically appropriate and in line with the product licence”.

Read more: Boots services up 40% thanks to ‘popular’ online weight loss service

“Patients are required to complete an online consultation, which is reviewed by a Boots Online Doctor clinician to determine if treatment is appropriate”, including “answering questions on their medical and psychological history and supplying a photograph”, the spokesperson told C+D.

They added that patients “are only supplied with a prescription if they provide their GP’s details” and Boots Online Doctor “informs each patient’s GP of the prescription as an additional safety measure and may contact the patient’s GP if required”.

“All patients receive follow-up care and support from Boots Online Doctor clinicians through the platform’s messaging function and clinicians may also call patients if required,” they said.


GPhC “looking into the issues raised”


The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) told C+D today (June 12) that it takes “patient safety extremely seriously and will be looking into the issues raised by this clinician relating to the supply of weight-loss medicines by online pharmacies”.

It said that it has “acted in response to emerging concerns about a small number of pharmacies - both online and bricks-and-mortar premises - inappropriately supplying medicines” licensed to treat diabetes but used for weight-loss and “taken action to stop these pharmacies supplying these medicines to potentially vulnerable people”.

Read more: Ozempic: DH recommends alternative diabetes drugs as shortages persist

GPhC chief strategy officer Mark Voce added that the regulator’s guidance “for registered pharmacies providing services at a distance including on the internet states clearly that selling and supplying medicines at a distance brings different risks that need to be appropriately managed to protect patient safety”.

“Medicines are not ordinary items of commerce and must not be treated as such,” he said.

The GPhC “would expect” any prescriber – including online – “to be able to demonstrate that they have all the information they need to prescribe weight loss treatments safely”, he told C+D.

Read more: Weight loss jab Mounjaro launched in UK pharmacies under private service

“This could be - but is not limited to - carrying out ongoing monitoring of the patient, ensuring weight and height information given to them is accurate and verified, talking to the patient and not relying solely on an online questionnaire,” Voce said.

“Prescribers must also consider the person’s wellbeing given that eating disorders, body dysmorphia and mental health issues can play a part in the reason for requesting these medicines,” he added.

 He encouraged “anyone who has concerns about patient safety to raise it” with the regulator.


“Unsafe” online patient questionnaires


It decided to issue each of them a warning to remain on its register for 12 months, adding that “further regulatory action” would follow future “similar conduct”.

Also last month, the regulator issued a firm statement in response to the release of “best practice” guidance by the Digital Clinical Excellence (DiCE) UK Forum for online consultations that use assessment questionnaires, a practice also known as “asynchronous prescribing”.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) warned that pharmacists who use the new guidance to prescribe the new wave of semaglutide-based weight loss drugs like Wegovy are at “risk of possible regulatory action”.

It said at the time that an “expert report” commissioned by the GPhC conflicts with the “industry-led” DiCE guidance.

The GPhC warned that “the only statutory standards” that healthcare professionals should follow are those produced by the UK’s health regulators or from statutory bodies such as NICE.

And it said that the GPhC is updating its guidance on “working in online settings” to provide “more clarity”.


If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s health, you can contact Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, 365 days a year on 0808 801 0677 or

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