First NHS patients given weight-loss balloon pill in Somerset

  • By Emma Elgee and PA Media
  • BBC News

Image caption,

The new type of weight-loss pill has been given to NHS patients for the first time

The first two NHS patients to receive a new type of weight-loss pill have been treated in Somerset.

The patients were given a capsule that contains a gastric balloon that is then filled with water.

The treatment makes people feel fuller for longer, so they eat less, and can be delivered in 15 minutes.

Prof Richard Welbourn, from Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are very pleased to be able to offer this new treatment, a first for the NHS.”

The first two patients were seen at Musgrove Park Hospital, in Taunton. A further three NHS patients are due to be treated in early February, with up to a dozen others also scheduled.

Video caption,

A private clinic pioneered a £4,000 treatment for those whose weight poses a risk

The treatment was approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) in 2020.

Consultant bariatric surgeon, Prof Welbourn, said that the pill offers “meaningful weight loss” as part of a full programme involving dietary support and care.

He added it would be particularly useful for patients with Type 2 diabetes.

Image caption,

The bag is inflated with water to make people feel fuller for longer

Because the balloon is swallowed, there is no need for an endoscopy, hospital bed, theatre time or anaesthetic, which Prof Welbourn said “is better for the NHS and a much-improved experience for our patients”.

“We expect that patients using the programme will lose 10-15% of their weight in four months, which improves quality of life and makes patients healthier,” he added.

The capsule is attached to a thin tube before an X-ray confirms the correct placement in the stomach and 550ml of water is put into the balloon via the tube.

A second X-ray is then taken to check the balloon is full and sitting well in the stomach before the tube is then removed.

After around four months, a time-activated release valve automatically opens, allowing the water-filled balloon to empty and pass naturally through the gastrointestinal tract.

Allurion, which manufactures the pill, said it has been in talks with NHS trusts about rolling out the treatment since it was approved in 2020.

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