Obesity treatment approved for reimbursement

Has demonstrated "clinically meaningful weight loss"

Deborah Condon

January 27, 2023

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  • A new treatment option for adults with obesity is now being reimbursed by the HSE, it has been confirmed.

    According to the HSE’s clinical lead for obesity, Prof Donal O’Shea, the reimbursement of Saxenda (liraglutide 3mg) “represents a landmark moment in Ireland’s changing response to how obesity is managed following the introduction of a new HSE Model of Care for the Management of Overweight and Obesity last year”.

    “Liraglutide 3mg has demonstrated, both in clinical studies and real-world use, clinically meaningful weight loss when combined with diet and exercise,” Prof O’Shea noted.

    The World Health Organization defines obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. Rates of obesity have more than doubled worldwide since 1980 and according to figures from Eurostat, Ireland has the second highest rate of obesity in the EU. Some 26% of adults here currently have a BMI of 30 or more.

    Liraglutide 3mg is the only obesity medicine reimbursed for people with an initial BMI of 35 or more, pre-diabetes and at least one cardiovascular risk factor.

    It was evaluated in the SCALE (Satiety and Clinical Adiposity−Liraglutide Evidence in Non-diabetic and Diabetic adults) phase 3 clinical trial programme, which included more than 5,000 study participants with a BMI of 27 or more and weight-related comorbidities.

    Trial data showed that the treatment, in combination with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity, resulted in significantly greater weight loss than diet and physical activity alone.

    News of the reimbursement was welcomed by the Irish Coalition for People living with Obesity (ICPO).

    “This announcement represents hope for the future in how obesity will be treated and recognised by society, and treated by healthcare professionals as a complex disease with multiple causes rather than just a case of personal responsibility,” commented ICPO executive director, Susie Birney.

    Liraglutide 3mg, which is manufactured by Nova Nordisk, comes in pre-filled pens and is administered as a once-daily injection.

    Reimbursement is through a managed access protocol run by the HSE’s Medicines Management Programme. Full  details on reimbursement criteria can be seen here. For people living with obesity who do not meet these criteria, the medicine can still be prescribed and purchased at the individual’s expense.

    Treatment with liraglutide 3mg should be discontinued after 12 weeks on the 3mg/day dose if people have not lost at least 5% of their initial body weight. Further prescribing information can be found here.

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