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Would YOU try it? Weight loss balloon that’s swallowed like a PILL and bursts inside you after four months is now being dished out on the NHS



By Emily Stearn, Health Reporter For Mailonline

00:01 23 Jan 2024, updated 08:19 23 Jan 2024

  • Patients in Somerset were among the first to take the weight-loss pill on the NHS 
  • Data suggests the device helps people lose up to 15% of their weight in 16 weeks 



A weight-loss balloon swallowed like a pill is now available on the NHS as part of a limited launch. 

Dozens of Brits are scheduled to have the ‘holistic’ 15-minute treatment fitted over the next few months. Two have already been treated in Somerset.

Experts say patients can lose up to an average of 15 per cent of their weight in just four months. 

The treatment, the only one of its kind currently approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), is designed to make the patient feel fuller so, in theory, they eat less.

But unlike gastric surgery, the balloon — which is filled with water — is a temporary measure. 

Experts say patients can lose up to an average of 15 per cent of their weight in just four months. The treatment, the only one of its kind currently approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), is designed to make the patient feel fuller so, in theory, they eat less

After 16 weeks, it bursts in the stomach, the water is released and the balloon itself is excreted. 

Allurion, the company behind the pill, said it has been in talks with NHS trusts about rolling out the treatment after it was given the seal of approval by NICE in 2020. 

Under the treatment, which requires no surgery, endoscopy or anesthesia, patients simply swallow the capsule which is attached to a thin tube.

An X-ray then confirms the correct placement in the stomach and 550ml of water is put into the balloon via the tube.

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

HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR BODY MASS INDEX – AND WHAT IT MEANS



Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height. 

Standard Formula:

  • BMI = (weight in pounds / (height in inches x height in inches)) x 703

Metric Formula:

  • BMI = (weight in kilograms / (height in meters x height in meters))

Measurements:

  • Under 18.5: Underweight
  • 18.5 – 24.9: Healthy
  • 25 – 29.9: Overweight
  • 30 – 39.9: Obese 
  • 40+: Morbidly obese 

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

Trials have shown the treatment to be particularly effective in patients with a higher body mass index (BMI). 

Patients with a starting BMI of 35-40 lose on average 15 per cent of their body weight after four months, while those with a starting BMI of over 40 can lose on average up to 20 per cent of their body weight after six months.

Patients also kept 95 per cent of their weight off for a year after treatment. 

A nutrition and lifestyle programme is provided by Allurion to help keep people on track.

To date around 130,000 people worldwide have been treated privately with the procedure.

However, it is not without its side effects. Users commonly complain of nausea and vomiting, but these are both often temporary.

Studies also show heartburn affects around one in ten people with a balloon as it causes the stomach to empty slower, allowing a build-up of stomach acid. 

Professor Richard Welbourn, consultant bariatric surgeon at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘We are very pleased to be able to offer this new treatment, a first for the NHS, that offers clinically meaningful weight loss as part of a holistic programme involving dietary support and care.

‘People with severe obesity are prone to diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, which can be reversed with weight loss.

‘The Allurion balloon is a 15-minute outpatient procedure, and is swallowed, so there’s no need for an endoscopy, hospital bed, theatre time or anaesthetic, which is better for the NHS and a much-improved experience for our patients.

‘We expect that patients using the programme will lose 10-15 per cent of their weight in four months, which improves quality of life and makes patients healthier.’

The first two NHS patients had balloons fitted last November at the Musgrove Park Hospital, part of the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, with a further three lined up next month. 

Dozens are also scheduled to undergo the procedure in the coming months.

Other weight loss options including bariatric surgery — where the stomach is reduced using a band or replumbed so that fewer calories are absorbed — can be highly effective.

However, these procedures are generally available only to those with a BMI over 40, or a BMI over 35 but with an obesity-related condition, such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.

Surgery also comes with risks such as infection, blood clots and a blocked gut, and requires a hospital stay, with weeks of recovery.

The weight-loss balloon is also cheaper. Until now, it has only been available privately in the UK for over £3,000. Other weight loss surgery such as gastric bands can cost between £5,000 and £10,000. 

Dr Shantanu Gaur, founder and chief executive of Allurion, said: ‘We are thrilled to be partnering with the NHS for the first time to deliver the Allurion programme.

‘We are looking forward to expanding this partnership and benefiting many more NHS patients in the months and years to come.’

A lack of exercise, combined with unhealthy diets, has been blamed for the growing obesity epidemic in the UK. 

Latest NHS data shows 26 per cent of adults in England are obese and a further 38 per cent are overweight but not obese. 

Last month, NHS Digital revealed that there are now 3,000 obesity-related admissions to hospital every day in England — twice as many as six years ago. 

A landmark study published in May also revealed the UK’s bulging waistline is stripping billions of pounds from the cash-strapped NHS each year, with twice as much spent on obese patients as on those of a healthy weight.

Costs per patient rise drastically the more people weigh, as they ‘collect obesity-related conditions’ such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease, according to research involving nearly 2.5million people. 



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