The NHS has initiated a limited launch of a weight-loss balloon that can be swallowed like a pill. This innovative 15-minute treatment, deemed “holistic,” is set to offer a viable solution to combat obesity, with dozens of Brits already scheduled for the procedure in the coming months.
Unlike traditional gastric surgery, this revolutionary treatment employs a temporary measure—a balloon filled with water. Approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), this unique approach is designed to induce a feeling of fullness, theoretically curbing the patient’s appetite. The treatment is expected to help patients shed up to an average of 15 per cent of their weight in just four months.
Allurion, the company behind this pioneering pill, has been in talks with NHS trusts after receiving the NICE seal of approval in 2020. The treatment requires no surgery, endoscopy, or anaesthesia. Patients simply swallow a capsule attached to a thin tube, leading to a straightforward and efficient process.
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 both better for the NHS and a more comfortable experience for patients.
An X-ray is performed to ensure correct placement in the stomach, and 550ml of water is injected into the balloon via the tube. A second X-ray confirms the balloon is full and appropriately positioned, after which the tube is removed. Following about four months, a time-activated release valve opens, allowing the water-filled balloon to empty and pass naturally through the gastrointestinal tract.
Trials have shown the treatment to be especially effective for patients with a higher body mass index (BMI). Those with a starting BMI of 35-40 lose an average of 15 per cent of their body weight after four months, while those with a BMI over 40 can achieve an average weight loss of up to 20 per cent after six months. Remarkably, patients have maintained 95 per cent of their weight loss for a year after treatment.
Despite its effectiveness, the weight-loss balloon is not without side effects. Users commonly experience temporary nausea and vomiting, while heartburn affects around one in ten people due to slower stomach emptying.
Professor Richard Welbourn, consultant bariatric surgeon at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, expressed enthusiasm about offering this novel treatment. He highlighted the holistic approach, stating that the Allurion balloon is a 15-minute outpatient procedure that involves no endoscopy, hospital bed, theatre time, or anaesthesia. Currently, two patients underwent the procedure in Somerset.
According to The Independent, the NHS patients who received the balloons last November at Musgrove Park Hospital reported positive experiences, paving the way for further treatments. As the NHS expands its partnership with Allurion, the innovative weight-loss pill opens new possibilities for addressing the obesity epidemic in the UK.