A diabetes drug controversially used by Hollywood A-listers to help them slim quickly is to launch in Britain as a path to weight loss, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Semaglutide is currently licensed in the UK only to treat weight-related illnesses such as diabetes, under the brand name Ozempic. But its side effect of helping users rapidly shed pounds means it has a large ‘off-label’ market, in which specialists can offer it to anyone they feel might benefit.

This has resulted in shortages for those who need it.

A semaglutide drug approved for weight loss is to launch in the UK in the spring, the MoS understands, and will be sold by Boots. The drug’s manufacturer, Danish pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk, said it will market the slimming drug, called Wegovy, ‘as soon as possible’.

Semaglutide is currently licensed in the UK only to treat weight-related illnesses such as diabetes, under the brand name Ozempic

The price for the ‘skinny jab’ is under wraps until it goes on sale, but current users of Ozempic told the MoS they pay around £180 for a month’s supply. Users inject the drug once a week using medical pens. It works like a chemical gastric band, suppressing appetite, with devotees claiming to have shed an average of 16 per cent of their body weight over a year.

Ozempic has been called ‘the worst-kept secret in Hollywood’, after an investigation by Variety magazine suggested A-listers were using it to slim down for events.

Elon Musk, owner of Twitter, said he used Wegovy to keep in shape, and Kim Kardashian is rumoured to have used semaglutide to lose 16lb to fit into a dress once worn by Marilyn Monroe.

Losing weight (file photo). A semaglutide drug approved for weight loss is to launch in the UK in the spring, the MoS understands, and will be sold by Boots

Losing weight (file photo). A semaglutide drug approved for weight loss is to launch in the UK in the spring, the MoS understands, and will be sold by Boots

Losing weight (file photo). A semaglutide drug approved for weight loss is to launch in the UK in the spring, the MoS understands, and will be sold by Boots

Dr David Eccleston, a private Birmingham GP specialising in fat loss, said he has had more than 100 requests from patients wanting to use Ozempic as a weight-reduction treatment, but he has turned them all down. He said: ‘No medical professional in the UK is allowed to actively promote Ozempic as a treatment for obesity because it is outside the product licence.’

Novo Nordisk also says it does not support ‘off-label prescribing’, adding: ‘Patient safety is our priority. All prescriptions of our products should be in line with the approved summary of product characteristics and the therapeutic indication.’

A Boots spokesman said: ‘Wegovy is a prescription-only weight-loss medicine that can help to regulate appetite and reduce cravings.

‘It can be an effective medicine to achieve sustained weight loss when used alongside a reduced calorie diet, increased physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices.’