By Maggie Fick
LONDON (Reuters) -Britain's National Health Service and two online sellers told Reuters they had received their first supplies of keenly anticipated Wegovy in Britain on Tuesday, a day after Novo Nordisk launched the weight-loss drug in its fifth market.
High market expectations and booming demand for Wegovy, shown to help patients reduce weight by around 15% when used alongside exercise and lifestyle changes, have boosted Novo's share price and helped make the Danish drugmaker Europe's most valuable listed company.
A NHS spokesperson confirmed to Reuters that the self-injection drug is now available through the NHS weight management scheme, where it will be prescribed for free.
Spokespeople for Simple Online Pharmacy and Juniper, a venture capital-backed online clinic focused on weight management, both told Reuters that they had received Wegovy stock from a wholesaler, but declined to say much they had.
With many countries facing mounting healthcare problems due to rising obesity levels, Novo has been unable to produce enough to meet demand for Wegovy, which is now available in the United States, Norway, Denmark, Germany and Britain.
A spokesperson declined to comment on the volume of Wegovy that Novo would deliver to Britain, but reiterated the Danish company's statement on Monday that its launch would be "limited and controlled" due to supply constraints.
Novo said when announcing the launch in Britain that Wegovy will be available on the National Health Service's (NHS) weight management scheme and on the private market.
The Novo spokesperson said deliveries of Wegovy to a UK wholesaler had begun, but declined to comment on Simple Online Pharmacy's statement that it had already received the drug.
Novo delivers its medicines to the wholesaler, which is then in control of onward distribution, the spokesperson said, declining to name the wholesaler involved.
The sole UK wholesaler for Wegovy is Alliance Healthcare UK, a spokesperson for Juniper told Reuters on Monday.
Alliance Healthcare UK on Tuesday afternoon confirmed to Reuters that it is a wholesaler distributor of Wegovy in the country. "Alliance Healthcare strives to distribute available stock to allow all customers to access Wegovy," the company said in an e-mailed statement in response to questions.
Some doctors and medical experts warned on Monday that people in Britain who can afford to pay out of their own pocket may get easier access to Wegovy than those seeking treatment in the country's state-run health service.
(Reporting by Maggie Fick; editing by Jason Neely, Louise Heavens and Alexander Smith)