Britain’s Superdrug says Wegovy received is “very small fraction” of waiting list

By Maggie Fick

LONDON (Reuters) -British health and beauty chain Superdrug said on Thursday that the amount of weight-loss drug Wegovy it has so far received is “a very small fraction” of what would be needed to fulfil its swelling waiting list.

More than 20,000 people had registered an interest in buying Wegovy from Superdrug even before Novo Nordisk launched the drug in Britain on Monday, and the waiting list has increased since then, a spokesperson told Reuters.

The very small volume of the drug, which is delivered by monthly injection, received by the company may stoke concerns expressed by doctors and medical experts this week that UK demand will immediately outstrip supply.

Novo said when announcing the launch in Britain that Wegovy will be available through the National Health Service’s weight management scheme and on the private market.

Superdrug and other large pharmacy chains, such as Walgreens Boots Alliance, have online weight-loss management clinics that have begun dispensing Wegovy.

But the websites of Superdrug and Boots say limited stocks mean the companies’ doctors can only provide the treatment to those who are among their existing weight-loss patients.

Saxenda, a daily injection which is Novo’s older weight-loss treatment and which is less effective than Wegovy, is already in shortage, according to the UK’s health regulator.

Ozempic, which contains the same active ingredient as Wegovy but is approved in the UK for treatment for type 2 diabetes, is also officially in shortage.

Advocacy group Diabetes UK told Reuters this week that Ozempic’s increasing “off-label” use for weight-loss has hurt people with type 2 diabetes who have been prescribed the drug but have struggled to fill their prescriptions.

Novo said on Monday its launch in Britain would be “limited and controlled” due to supply constraints that have also affected the other four markets in which Wegovy is available, including the United States.

When asked for comment on Superdrug’s statement on Thursday, the Danish drugmaker reiterated its statement on Monday that a proportion of available supply has been allocated for use only within the NHS, and said it could not comment on supply figures.

Superdrug did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how many prescriptions it had so far dispensed.

Boots did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how much stock it had so far received.

(Reporting by Maggie Fick; Editing by Catherine Evans and David Evans)