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Publication, Part of

Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet, England, 2020

Official statistics, National statistics

National Statistics

Part 2: Prescription items for the treatment of obesity

This part presents information on the number of prescriptions for drugs used to treat obesity and the Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) of these prescriptions. The data source is Prescription Analysis and Cost (PACT) data from NHS Prescription Services. It includes items prescribed in primary care and dispensed in the community. It excludes prescriptions written in hospitals that are dispensed in the community, prescriptions dispensed in hospitals, dental prescribing and private prescriptions.

The NIC is the basic cost of a drug as listed in the Drug Tariff or price lists; it does not include discounts, dispensing costs, prescription charges or fees.

Since 2010, Orlistat (Xenical®) is the only drug available in the UK that is recommended specifically for the management of obesity. Orlistat acts by reducing the absorption of dietary fat. Clinical guidelines state that pharmacological interventions should only be used in conjunction with other interventions (exercise, diet).

NICE guidance on obesity treatment.

Prescribing data is reported by financial year (previously calendar year). However, as financial year data is only available from 2014/15, time series analysis will continue to be based on calendar years. Calendar year data is shown in table 5.1b.

Prescription items and cost

Items prescribed, by year

355 thousand items (Orlistat) were prescribed for the treatment of obesity in primary care in 2019. That is 4% fewer than in 2018 when there were 371 thousand items, and continues a long-term downward trend.

Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) of items, by year

The NIC of items (Orlistat) rose to £10.4 million in 2019, an increase of 28% from £8.1 million in 2018. However, this is still 71% lower than 2010, when the NIC of items (Orlistat) was £36.3 million.

As such the NIC per item (Orlistat) in 2019 was £29, which is £7 higher than 2018 (£22), though still £6 lower compared to a peak in 2013 (£35).


For more data/information on this section:

2012 stock shortage details

Table 6.1b of  Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet - England 2020


Prescription items per head of population

Prescription items per 1,000 population, by Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)

NHS Barnsley had the highest prescription rate with 18 items per 1,000 population. NHS Stoke on Trent had a prescription rate of 17 items per 1,000 population, and NHS South Tyneside and NHS Knowsley had prescription rates of 15 per 1,000 population.

NHS Nene, NHS Corby and NHS Mansfield and Ashfield all recorded almost zero rates.

Prescription items per 1,000 population, by NHS Commissioning Region

In 2018/19, North of England had the highest prescription rate with 9 items per 1,000 population, and South East of England the lowest rate with 4.


For more data/information on this section:

Table 6.2 of  Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet - England 2020

Last edited: 8 July 2021 5:17 pm