Weight loss injection with serious side effects available OTC…

Jul 31, 2023 | Guidelines, Petition, Raising awareness | 10 comments

What you read here may shock you… as you know, we have been trying to access safe and effective B12 injections OTC from pharmacies for nearly a decade and yet…

A pricy self injectable drug called Saxenda can be bought from your chemist without the knowledge of your GP. It’s even available for 12 -17 year olds and is in high demand so is often out of stock.

Drugs such as Saxenda, contain GLP-1 receptor agonists and were originally developed as a treatment for type 2 diabetes as they suppress appetite and promote the feeling of fullness.

This drug has the possibility of inducing several serious side effects...

Serious side effects may happen in people who take Saxenda®, including:

Possible thyroid tumors, including cancer. Tell your health care professional if you get a lump or swelling in your neck, hoarseness, trouble swallowing, or shortness of breath. These may be symptoms of thyroid cancer. In studies with rats and mice, Saxenda® and medicines that work like Saxenda® caused thyroid tumors, including thyroid cancer. It is not known if Saxenda® will cause thyroid tumors or a type of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) in people.

And this list of side effects from the online doctor which you’ll notice makes no reference to the thyroid but details pancreatitis in it’s serious side effects section and kidney failure in it’s rare section…

Serious side effects of Saxenda®

Serious side effects of Saxenda® are rare. There have been some reports of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). If you experience breathing difficulties or swelling of the face and throat call 999 or visit A&E immediately.

Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) is also a rare but serious side effect. Pancreatitis is a serious, potentially life threatening medical condition. Stop taking Saxenda® and contact your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following serious side effects at the same time, as they could be a sign of pancreatitis:

Severe and persistent pain in the abdomen (stomach area) which might reach through to your back

Nausea and vomiting

Very common side effects of Saxenda®
The very common side effects of Saxenda® are likely to affect more than 1 in 10 patients. These side effects include: 

  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Headaches

Patients experiencing these side effects often report that they go away after several days or weeks.

To help manage the nausea, get fresh air whenever possible, sip a cold drink or peppermint tea, and eat smaller more frequent meals.

We also recommend that you don’t cook anything strong smelling and avoiding greasy and fried foods.

Common side effects of Saxenda®
Common side effects may affect up to 1 in 10 people. They include: 

  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • A change to your sense of taste
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Stomach problems such as indigestion, discomfort, heartburn, feeling bloated, wind and belching, dry mouth, and gastritis (this is inflammation in the lining of the stomach)
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Reactions around the injection site, such as bruising, itching and pain
  • An increase in pancreatic enzymes, such as lipase and amylase
  • Gallstones

Low blood sugar is also a common side effect. The symptoms of low blood sugar may appear suddenly and include:

Feeling anxious or nervous
Cool pale skin
Feeling sick
Feeling hungry

Uncommon side effects of Saxenda®
Uncommon side effects of Saxenda® may affect 1 in 100 people. They include: 

  • Increased pulse rate
  • Feeling generally unwell
  • Dehydration – this is likely to be a side effect of the common side effects of vomiting and diarrhoea
  • An inflamed gall bladder
  • A delay in the emptying the stomach

Rare side effects of Saxenda®
The rare side effects of Saxenda® include reduced kidney function and kidney failure and may affect up to 1 in 100 people. The signs are a metallic taste in the mouth, a reduction in urine volume and skin that easily bruises. You should contact your doctor immediately if experiencing these side effects.

Saxenda and other weight loss drugs are also in the news as the MHRA has received reports of suicidal thoughts following its use.

It’s important to note here that B12 injections have one incredible and exceedingly common side effect…. and that is, wait for it……


How much does this drug cost?

Pharmacy magazine July 2020 states: The programme, which costs £260 per month, is available in 1,400 branches and is aimed at helping people with obesity lose weight and reduce their risk of developing weight-related health problems.

Your consultation

Some of the pharmacies selling this drug ‘under prescription’ do so by asking you to fill in an online questionnaire which is then sent to an ‘online doctor’ following payment. Whilst taking this drug the user is advised that they will need to eat a balanced, reduced-calorie diet and exercise regularly… 

Here’s how the process works at this particular chain and they detail what this drug is supposed to do:

  1. Consultation 


    • Is a daily injection for weight loss
    • Acts on receptors in the brain that control your appetite, making you feel fuller and less hungry
    • May help you eat less food, which may help you lose weight
    • Treatment starts at a low dose, which will gradually increase over 5 weeks
    • Should only be continued if you’ve lost at least 5% of your initial body weight after being on Saxenda for 16 weeks
    • Can be used if you have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more or 27 – 30 and a weight-related health problem
    • May cause mild side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or headaches. These usually settle after a few days or weeks
    • Your consultation

      We are now going to ask you a few questions so that we can give you the best medical care. This takes an average of 5 minutes to complete.

      We try our best to help our patients, but sometimes our online service is not able to meet all your needs.

      Please be honest and if you are unsure about any of the answers, check these with your GP first.

      • I am 18 years old or above
      • I am using this service on my own behalf and of my own free will and any treatment or advice is for my sole use only
      • I will see my GP if I need help filling out this form, reading or understanding this consultation
      • I understand my consultation will not be passed to the LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor clinical team until I have successfully completed payment

You’ll notice that the summary above asks the customer to.. Please be honest…

Other pharmacies sell Saxenda
 under a PGD (Patient Group Direction)

This means It can be prescribed in the pharmacy via a consultation with the pharmacist trained to sell Saxenda in this way. If you fit the criteria described above. Once you purchase the injections a pharmacist will show you how to inject Saxenda subcutaneously.

All this can happen without you having seen a doctor and without your own GP being aware of your purchase, that’s because the onus is on you to tell them. Obviously, the way this process is set up means it could be open to abuse. If you want these weight loss injections and you choose not to be honest about your health or medication and the pharmacist does not look at your Summary Care Recordwhich they are not required to, then the gaps in the process could lead to tragedy.

What is a PGD?

PGD’s are ways of making POM (prescription only medications) available via pharmacies without seeing your GP. The medicines that can be given in this way are apparently commissioned locally and there is no national medicine list. The kinds of medicine commonly given under a PGD are; malaria tablets, flu vaccines, drugs for erectile dysfunction and for period delay.

My question and I’m sure yours too, is why can’t B12 injections be given in this way? And if they were, the questions need only ask – are you able to absorb B12 from food? Do you want to feel well? Job done.


So why do these injections bypass the normal route to the patient? Clearly there’s money to be made at each step with the weight loss injections and the drug company, the pharmacy and the MHRA will all be paid. But how did this injection skip the rules that B12 injections have to follow if you have a medical need?
We already know that the MHRA bend the rules so that a hair salon or a private clinic giving botox can add B12 to their list of injectables. But the patient in desperate need may have to beg for more than four B12 injections a year, and that beg may be denied leaving that patient bed bound and mentally ill.

GP Practices and pharmacies compete for business, yes your practice is a business. GP’s don’t want you to have your flu vaccine at a pharmacy because they lose money.  Practices apparently profit each time they give a B12 injection – around £6 each time. So even though B12 injections are very cheap to buy they are rationed by doctors as if they are a dangerous narcotic. Maybe our GP’s don’t want to lose this nominal financial gain to pharmacists even though the pharmacies are under threat of closure due to lack of funding. I wonder if any pharmacist has asked for B12 injections to be accessed under a PGD or if only pricy harmful drugs get the go ahead?

You may have a similar poster in your Practice…


And there’s more of these injection’s on the horizon…NICE happily recommends new drug for people living with obesity…

Helen Knight, programme director in the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE, said:

“We know that management of overweight and obesity is one of the biggest challenges our health service is facing with nearly two thirds of adults either overweight or obese. It is a lifelong condition that needs medical intervention, has psychological and physical effects, and can affect quality of life.”

“But in recent years NICE has been able to recommend a new line of pharmaceutical treatments which have shown that those people using them, alongside changes to their diet and exercise, have been able to reduce their weight.”

However, You can already buy a semaglutide  called Ozempic – which is normally used for treatment of diabetes and is called off-label use for weight loss OTC –  these potentially dangerous drugs are often out of stock due to high demand!

Off label

You see above that it’s completely fine to sell weight loss drugs ‘off label’ this usually means that the drug was designed to treat one ailment but has been found to have another use.

You may have asked your GP for more frequent B12 Injections only to be told, I’m not allowed to do that as it would be ‘off label’ – this time meaning it’s outside of what the doctor thinks the frequency given can be. This is a doctor who’s ignorant of B12 deficiency and how B12 works in the body. This doctor may not have the confidence to defend themselves against scrutiny from a ‘prescribing pharmacist’ who might flag ‘unusual prescribing’. With B12 deficiency surely any critical thinking doctor would know they are covered professionally for giving you B12 injections at your rate of need? This is also what should be known as ‘doing no harm’. They’re not giving you B12 injections for treatment of athletes foot or for head lice, they are giving it to you because you cannot absorb B12 from food, and you need it to treat a deficiency. How on earth can anyone complain about that? And how, if someone questioned a doctor on this can’t they state – because the patient needs it to be well – and that be the end of the interrogation?

The NHS, bizarrely offer the following advice for a  healthy diet on their Treatment for obesity page:

A healthy diet should consist of:

  • plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • meals based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods (ideally you should choose high fibre and wholegrain varieties)
  • some milk and dairy foods or dairy alternatives
  • some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
  • just small amounts of food and drinks that are high in fat and sugar

Isn’t that nuts?

Now clearly, I am not medically trained, however you would have to be living in another world to not know that “meals based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods” –  otherwise known as carbohydrates, would be so far wrong that it’s laughable. Carbohydrates are sugars. If you want to lose weight then carbs and indeed fruit should be heavily reduced or entirely avoided. They should not be recommended as part of a healthy diet for obesity. Why on earth is the NHS perpetuating this myth?

Obesity researcher, Dr Zoe Harcombe PhD does a brilliant breakdown and rebuttal of Slimming World’s Article “13 ways carbs can help you lose weight”  Following a daily Mail article  “Low-carb diets could make you FATTER, say Slimming World experts as they reveal the 13 ways carbs can help you LOSE weight

Please read the entire article but here are two important quotes from Zoe:

The most important thing to say about carbohydrate is that we don’t need to consume it. But then an article raving about carbohydrate is not going to include that vital fact. I constantly see fibre being used as the rationalisation for why we should eat carbs, but carbs are not essential and so fibre is not essential – that is an inescapable fact combined with inescapable logic.

Because carbohydrates are not essential for human to consume, it cannot be the case that we need to consume carbohydrates for any micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Carbohydrates can provide vitamins and minerals, but you will always be able to find a fat/protein (usually animal) food that provides more.

Could it be B12?

I wonder how many people struggling with weight loss are also B12 deficient but may never have been tested? B12 injections have been promoted for weight loss by private clinics but this is not a feature of the B12 injection. However, weight loss can occur in B12 deficient people who after receiving B12 injections begin to function properly both mentally and physically. Finding they have a new found vigour and can enjoy activity and exercise that was previously, virtually impossible.

We need safe effective inexpensive B12 injections to be made available OTC.

Whilst the vast majority of our doctors lag way behind their patients in understanding vitamin B12 deficiency, we should be able to keep ourselves alive and well by giving ourselves B12 injections purchased inexpensively from our pharmacies. People who buy online from German pharmacies can buy a 100 ampoules for £100 or less.

For many their treatment is restricted if given at all by their GP’s and therefore their recovery is hampered. We want to be in charge of our own healing. We know how we feel and we know when we need our B12 injections far better than anyone else possibly could. If our government think it’s ok to let people access weight loss injections with a hefty price tag from age 12 from pharmacies  but we can’t access an essential vitamin then there is something seriously wrong. This is a twisted system and it needs a spot light shining on it.


Anyone wanting to use weight loss drugs who has followed the NHS dietary advice for obesity and failed (who wouldn’t?), the NHS and the gang can now exploit them by selling a drug which could cause serious harm. This drug will empty their pockets and as research shows, have them back to square one weight wise within weeks of stopping the injections. This leads some doctors to think that the patient will need to stay on these injections for life….

Dr Rubino states: Obesity is a chronic illness, she said. As with any other chronic illness, most patients will need to take the medication for their entire lives to maintain the benefits, which, in this case, means keeping the weight off.

I don’t agree with Dr Rubino, but who am I to say such a thing? I’m no doctor but I know that obesity is a complex problem with many facets and causes. Surely no one needs to be on a harmful weight loss drug for life? There are other avenues to take.

Obesity can be caused by antipsychotics and antidepressants, by trauma and abuse and the very last thing people need is another dangerous drug adding to the list. My best advice to anyone on the fence about using the weight loss drugs would be to firstly to try and find the absolute root cause/s of your weight issues and try to tackle those. If the root cause doesn’t shift, neither does anything else. Next, check to see if you have symptoms of B12 deficiency and if so access testing. Then follow Dr Zoe Harcombe PhD who has an incredible site and wealth of knowledge in this field.

What does all this mean?

What you have read here leaves people who need B12 but can’t access it from a doctor feeling angry.

It shows that who can and who can’t have an essential medicine is wrapped up with neglect, exploitation and greed. B12 injections, in some quarters, are viewed as a fad, as a frivolous pass time for those who wan’t to emulate celebrities. Restricting them makes the patient in need a veritable ‘cash cow’ for the health system where doctors can willingly and speedily give out multiple drugs for myriad B12 deficiency symptoms instead of the vitamin that takes them all away. What a state we’re in. If you have any fight left in you, perhaps write to your MP again and perhaps share this blog with them?

It’s always great to hear your thoughts so please comment below.

Kindness always,
Tracey x


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  1. Frank Hollis

    Carbohydrates aren’t sugars, sugars are carbohydrates.

    Starchy foods, especially wholegrain, can also be high in fibre. They’re good at making you feel full.

    Wholegrain bread is 16% carbohydrates and 21% dietary fibre. I’ve lost a lot of weight in the past by using wholegrain bread to fill me up.

  2. Sandra adams

    Forwarded to my MP

  3. Jimmy Norman

    Oh wow this triggered me 🤬 how on earth is it that easy for a weight loss drug but not for B12?!?!

  4. Ann Wright

    Good luck Tracey you are putting yourself out there yet again in order to get OTC access for the many many people suffering from B 12 deficiency maybe one day you will succeed thank you for all your strength and tenacity and we can only hope .

  5. Angie

    Can a person have an elevated B12 from proper supplementation (methyl b12), but still not absorb it? My b12 labs show 900 after I was supplementing, but I still have symptoms of deficiency. I have never been low on b12 (500-600 was my lowest), but I have MTHFR C667t mutation and I’ve always had some symptoms since I was a child. Anyone else still experience symptoms after lab levels look good?

  6. Judy Y

    Oh Tracey, where is the logic? Actually, I feel lost for words. You can go and buy a drug that can have dangerous side effects, but you can’t buy B12 that doesn’t have such side effects.
    And today I was reading that you can buy Co-codamol from chemists a paracetamol with codeine, Codeine is an opiate, but the powers that be seem to trust the public with these drugs, but not a vitamin?

  7. Sahara Kendrick

    Tracey once again this is an incredible state of affairs that you have highlighted. I have to say, I just don’t get WHY is it such a difficult decision to allow people to buy B12 ampules over the counter.
    I for one will be sending this article to my MP a big noise needs to be made.
    I will certainly be sharing this on our social media.

  8. Fleur

    This article made me giggle…
    One of the reasons given by my Haematologist as to why she couldn’t possibly give me more than one B12 vial a month was because some people take it as a weight loss drug and I should know I shouldn’t do that..
    Bear in mind I was seeing her After the official diagnosis of Pernicious Anemia, and Because of the official diagnosis, and I was a terribly skeletal 5 stone at the time having lost over 2 stone in muscle ( martial arts, rowing etc) followed by another stone and a half of any other tissue I could loose.
    And she felt she had to point out that I shouldn’t be asking for more if I thought I could use it to loose weight???

    The other reason she gave for not offering me more than one vial a month ( still way more than the one vial every 3 months my GP surgery wanted to give me or the ZERO amount of B12 my negligent GP wanted to give me on the basis of , and I quote directly” you must be full by now”, yup he really said that, I have a witness
    The second reason the Haemotologist gave for not giving me the amount of B12 I needed was…
    ” more B12 will increase your risk of Cancer!!!” ( False btw, it’s the opposite, if you have pernicious anemia you already have an 80% – I believe, do check for yourselves – 80% increased chance of getting bowel cancer, actually taking the B12 you need reduces that risk )
    So to hear that a “diet” injection is so freely available at £260/ month, when B12 costs about £1/ 1mg in 1 ml ampule, and yet the argument so often put forward for not allowing people to buy B12 as they with is becoming it is an injection, doesn’t matter it’s IM, doesn’t matter I could take 1000 in a single day and be fine, doesn’t matter I could easily buy 10,000 times that dose from any supermarket and gobble the lot as a pill ( no use to PA sufferers), you can’t have it because you have to inject it, it so utterly bizarre I had to laugh 😂

    • Tracey Witty

      OMG, the ‘you must be full up by now’ line…completely crackers! The repeated failures in your health ‘care’ were absolutely appalling Fleur. I sincerely hope that those you encountered have had a wake up call.

      This weight loss drug is an absolute shocker isn’t it? Makes absolutely no sense at all to sell a drug so laden with side effects and allow it to be sold for use by children. In contrast, not allowing us B12 OTC is madness – simple as that.


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