Those who prescribe weight loss treatments will be familiar with the recent challenges surrounding the supply of these medicines, and the implications for access to these medicines for those with a diagnosed clinical need. Prescribers should also be familiar with their professional responsibilities when prescribing, particularly in relation to prescribing off-label, the necessary diligence when assessing risk and benefit and the ethical considerations when prescribing for cosmetic purposes.
The JCCP understands that certain medicines, including Ozempic®, are indicated for the treatment of diabetes but may be prescribed off-label for weight loss. Other medicines, such as Saxenda®, are licensed for weight loss purposes within boundaries determined by BMI and defined comorbidities. In the context of the current supply challenge, it is clear that prescribing these medicines without sufficient regard to wider demographics, and which does not prioritise access to these medicines, represents a public safety hazard.
The JCCP also understands that the issues that arise from these challenges are complex. The balance of risk and benefit now requires a broader determination beyond that relating to the individual patient or consumer, with ethical considerations also placed in this context. However, The JCCP firmly believe that patients’ requiring these medicines for a licensed clinical need should not suffer constrained access on the basis of their use elsewhere for cosmetic procedures.
The JCCP advises all prescribers who offer weight loss services within the cosmetic sector to review their activity in this context, and to implement the necessary due diligence to ensure compliant practice.
The JCCP requests all its registrant prescribers, and all JCCP registrants who offer weight loss services, to restrict the provision of this service for cosmetic indications during the current supply challenge. A ‘cosmetic indication’ is any instance where a consumer’s BMI is less than 27, or where the BMI is between 27 and 30 in the absence of relevant comorbidities.
The healthcare regulators have advised that ‘Health and care professionals must meet relevant regulatory standards in these circumstances, and they should be able to account for their decisions’. In alignment with this position, where The JCCP receives a complaint concerning a registrant who has prescribed or offered a weight loss treatment for cosmetic purposes, we would expect to see compelling evidence to support the activity in the wider context outlined in this statement.
The JCCP reminds prescribers of the joint statement issued by the General Pharmaceutical Council on behalf of the professional statutory regulators here.
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