Treating obesity with drugs too costly

Treating obesity with drugs alone is too costly and does little to address lifestyle change in the longer term warn nutritionists and researchers at Slimming World, the UK’s leading slimming organisation.

Recent figures released by the Information Centre for Health and Social Care show that prescriptions for obesity drugs have increased sevenfold since 1999. This equates to an increase in prescription costs of about £15 million to more than £100 million.

Following publication of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guideline for the treatment and prevention of obesity earlier this month, the British Medical Association warned that more resources would be needed to finance measures to address the issue. The NHS, facing deficits of £1.2bn, has been given no additional funding to tackle the issue.

Speaking at the launch of the guideline GPs questioned how they could fund enough practice nurses to ensure patients were given up to 15 sessions a year to guide them through weight loss programmes. "The physical resources aren't there to offer this level of support. This is an aspirational guideline," said Professor Paul Little, a practising GP and researcher. "GPs will say: 'Tell me what am I doing at the moment that you want me to stop doing so that I can do this?'"

“Some health experts are already warning that obesity will bankrupt the NHS,” says Sue Gibson, Slimming on Referral Business Development Manager.  “These new figures show how alarming and urgent the issue is.

“Slimming World has developed Slimming on Referral to offer Primary Care Trusts a subsidised membership scheme for patients that costs one third the price of a drugs prescription. The scheme helps people to change their whole behaviour around eating and activity through weekly group support. The foundation of Slimming World’s approach is sustainable, long-term behaviour change. We offer people the kind of real support they need. We can offer PCTs a real solution and hope that increasing numbers of them will open their doors to working with commercial slimming organisations,” she says.

Slimming World Research Officer Dr James Stubbs says: “Besides the costs, Slimming World’s eating plan, Food Optimising has no adverse side effects and it helps people to change lifestyle for the long term. Our own research shows that people following Slimming World’s programme are making changes – important changes – changes to the way they shop, cook, eat and exercise. What is more, three quarters of them are positively influencing family members to eat more healthily and to exercise more regularly. They buy more fresh fruit and vegetables, they eat less sugary and fatty foods, they buy less ready-made meals and they make more time to cook for the family using basic, nutritious ingredients. In this way we influence over 3 million people each year”.

For further information about Slimming World and to find details of your nearest group, visit or contact 08700 745666.


For further information about this press release or a copy of Slimming World’s research including the report “Influence of Slimming World’s lifestyle programme on diet, activity behaviour and health of participants and their family”, please contact Jenny Caven on 01773 546037/ 07795 445 004, or email

Notes to Editors

  • Slimming World is the largest and most advanced slimming organisation in the UK.  Margaret Miles-Bramwell founded the company in 1969 and there are now more than 5,500 groups held weekly nationwide via a network of 2,500 Slimming World trained Consultants.
  • Slimming World has pioneered Slimming on Referral in the UK and actively supports the building of partnerships with the NHS to develop effective strategies to manage overweight and obesity in the community. 14 PCTs are working with Slimming World and have implemented Slimming on Referral schemes for nearly 6,000 member places. Working with university researchers and specialists in obesity, Slimming World also supports an active research programme to further knowledge of its causes and treatment.
  • Slimming World’s healthy eating plan, Food OptimisingÒ, and the principles behind Slimming World’s philosophy are based on a deep understanding of the challenges faced by overweight people. Slimming World integrates practical, up-to-date dietary advice with a highly developed support system.
  • Free2Go is a new option to free up Food Optimising for adolescents allowing unlimited Free Food and Healthy Extras and alternative options for managing Syns.
  • Slimming World Consultants receive specific training in dietary aspects of weight management, the role of physical activity in weight control and highly developed training in facilitating behaviour change in a group environment, acknowledged by experts and supported by research as being the most effective way to support change for weight management
  • Slimming World is the only organisation in the UK to provide support to pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers, with a policy developed with the Royal College of Midwives.
  • Slimming World has an increasing number of men attending groups, on average around 9,000 each month. Slimming World currently has 50 male Consultants and ten men-only groups.
  • In March 2004 and again in 2005 and 2006, Slimming World was named among the ‘Top 100’ Best Small Companies to Work for in the UK by The Sunday Times.
  • Body Magic is Slimming World’s unique programme designed to inspire members to become more active.  From gardening to dancing, everyone is encouraged to find their own personal, enjoyable and fun way of increasing their activity levels for optimum weight loss and improved health.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in