16 November 2023

Weight Loss Drugs: Some Essential Considerations

Written by Joanne Harrison

There has been a recent media focus on the use of ‘weight loss drugs’ and the potential risks associated with them.

In September 2023, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (‘NICE’) announced that Semaglutide would be made available via the NHS as a prescription-only medicine (“a POM”) under a two-year pilot scheme. This development demonstrates that such medications are considered a useful option for treating obesity in appropriate circumstances. There are, however, some concerning reports of individuals obtaining such medications online without prescription.

It is essential that anyone supplying a weight loss drug checks whether the specific medication in question is a POM. If so, they must ensure that they are complying with their obligations under The Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (“the 2012 Regulations”), which set out a framework as to when a POM can legally be possessed or supplied. Any breach of the 2012 Regulations may amount to an offence.

Both the 2012 Regulations and the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (“the CAP Code”) impose significant restrictions on the advertising of POMs. The Advertising Standards Authority (‘the ASA’) recently held that an Instagram Post by an aesthetic clinic breached the CAP Code by advertising a POM to the public. The Medicines Regulatory Group of the Department of Health in Northern Ireland (who are responsible for ensuring compliance with medicines legislation) lists advertising of POMs to the public amongst its recent investigations.

It is essential that anyone involved in the provision of weight loss drugs is aware of their legal obligations, to avoid incurring either criminal liability or reputational damage.

If you would like any further information or advice, please contact Joanne Harrison from our Healthcare team.

*This information is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute, nor should be regarded, as a substitute for taking legal advice.

About the author

Joanne Harrison

Senior Associate

Joanne Harrison is a Senior Associate in the Healthcare team at Carson McDowell. Joanne specialises in regulatory and professional discipline matters, with a particular focus on healthcare cases.

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