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Is this one of the world’s most discreet weight loss weapons?

Balloon procedure offers dramatic results without surgery

WITH the pandemic having expanded the UK’s waistline as a result of poorer eating habits, stress, and interrupted access to gyms, there’s no denying that COVID-19 has prompted many to look for a weight loss kickstart.

Research by Transform Hospital Group, one of the UK’s leading providers of weight loss solutions, showed 64% of those surveyed claim they put on weight during lockdown, with 12% gaining 6kg or more. Eating due to feeling bored was the main cause, with 68% citing this as a cause of their weight gain.*

Demand for clinical weight loss interventions such as bariatric surgery has also soared – with a 71% increase in enquiries and an 103% increase in treatments carried out between Jan – Dec 2021 compared to the same period the previous year.

Incredible results from this type of procedure have recently been displayed by former TOWIE star James ‘Arg’ Argent, who before losing 13 stone following his gastric sleeve surgery, was warned by doctors to ‘lose weight or die.’

Weight management that nobody has to know about

Transform Hospital Group, who performed James’ bariatric surgery in April 2021, have introduced their latest clinical weight-reduction treatment, the Allurion Balloon, which could help those with significant weight concerns.

The treatment allows patients to potentially lose 10-15% of their excess body weight within six months, without going under the knife. The discreet procedure offers dramatic results without the recovery and attention that surgery can bring, meaning the patient can keep their treatment private.

Christine Mozzamdar, Director of Clinical Services at Transform Hospital Group, said: “Following almost two years of restrictions, the issue of obesity has been brought into sharp focus by COVID-19. As one of the UK’s leading providers of weight management solutions, we have seen increasing numbers of patients coming to us for support as they struggle with their weight, some even facing life-limiting illnesses such as type two diabetes, heart disease, and other worrying conditions brought on by lack of physical activity and comfort eating during lockdown.  

“It’s well documented that surgical solutions can dramatically improve or even reverse the complications that come with being overweight, however, surgery is not always a viable option for some people. The Allurion Balloon offers a very effective alternative.

“We see this as a game-changing solution for those who want to lose weight and transform their relationship with food without going down the surgical route. Patients can come in and have the procedure, in a clinical setting and under the care of a medical professional, without any serious downtime. So much so that nobody has to know – it’s a very discreet procedure and that can be attractive for someone who wants to keep their weight management treatment private.

“We are delighted to be bolstering our range of weight management solutions for patients who might be struggling to reduce their BMI and their daily calorie intake. Allurion Balloon is a holistic solution that can help people lose weight over a period of six months and kickstart a healthy lifestyle that will guide their weight loss for life.”

A safe, non-invasive alternative to weight loss surgery

The state-of-the-art treatment allows patients to take control of their weight by swallowing the vegetarian Allurion Balloon, which is then filled with water by the medical professional overseeing the procedure. The balloon then trains the stomach to feel full so that patients eat less and in turn lose weight.

A proven alternative to an ineffective diet, without measures such as surgery, anaesthesia or endoscopy, the balloon is simply swallowed. The medical procedure takes around 15 minutes to carry out and is performed by a doctor at Transform Hospital Group’s Burcot Hall hospital in Bromsgrove or The Pines hospital near Manchester. It is supported by a 16-week lifestyle programme.

Patients are provided with a watch that tracks weight loss progress following their procedure, alongside a six-month programme and full access to a virtual care suite to ensure that they are supported in adapting to a healthier lifestyle and a better attitude towards food.

The procedure is not only highly effective and safe, but comfortable for patients as the device that is swallowed is the size of a piece of food. The balloon passes through the system naturally, without the need for surgical removal, within four months. Patients are then supported with their programme for a further two months, to ensure that they are adapting to their lifestyle change without any issues.

The treatment is also suitable for individuals on the higher end of the BMI scale, as patients can be fitted with subsequent balloons following their first procedure to help them continue their weight loss journey. To be suitable for the procedure, patients must have a BMI of 27 or more.

Christine Mozzamdar explained: “The balloon is designed to ensure it is comfortable to be swallowed. It’s created in a unique elliptical shape to reduce the amount of contact with the stomach wall. But we offer much more than just a device – this is a multi-disciplinary behavioural change programme.

“99.9 percent of patients find the balloon easy to swallow and simply report experiencing a cold sensation when it is being filled with water. It then creates a feeling of fullness within the stomach, encouraging smaller portions and less snacking.

“Patients won’t have to go to theatre or an operating room, they simply have the process carried out within an x-ray room and wear a gown over their own clothes. They literally swallow the device and three minutes later it’s being filled with water. It only takes about five minutes for this to be completed and then they are x-rayed to ensure the balloon is suitably placed within the stomach.

“Following this, patients are then given their app, scale and health tracker and they simply walk out of the appointment and carry on with their day-to-day life.

“One of the great things about Allurion is that patients can have it done discreetly – no-one would know that they have had the procedure, so it’s almost a secret procedure for weight loss.”

Martin Edwards, a spokesman for Allurion, also commented: “This is perfect for those who struggle to lose weight but cannot go down the surgery route. It will help patients to make real, lasting long-term changes when it comes to their diet.

“We are thrilled that Transform Hospital Group will be offering this transformative procedure to patients as part of its weight management services.”

For further information or to find out more about the range of treatments available visit www.thehospitalgroup.org. 

* Censuswide survey of 1,001 people with a BMI of 30 or over, carried out September 2020.

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Lifestyle

Keeping pets protected during heatwaves this summer

We’ve been lucky to have been hit with some great weather this summer, however, some days have been exceptionally hot and causing us discomfort to the point where we don’t want to leave the house! Our pets can also struggle in this heat and if not looked after correctly, can lead to life threatening issues for them. 

Dr. Sarah Machell, Medical Director for Vetster, has shared her top five top tips to ensure that our pets can enjoy the summer days as much as we can.

Vetster, is a digital platform that connects licensed vets with pet owners virtually, with 24/7 online appointments, launches in the UK this summer.

1.  Provide adequate rest, shade, and ventilation

Coping with high temperatures and humidity is tough enough on its own, but it’s even more difficult for pets who are exercising in direct sunlight and don’t have adequate ventilation. Limit outdoor activities to early mornings and late evenings when it’s cooler. When walking your pet, choose shady routes off the pavement.  Ensure outdoor pets have shady, ventilated places to escape the heat.  Keep in mind that pets also rely on evaporation for cooling, regardless of if they sweat like horses or pant like dogs, and high humidity decreases the effect of evaporation. This means your pet needs you to keep an eye on the heat index for them as well as for you.  Be sure your pets have easy access to a steady supply of clean water. Pets are naturally wired to stay hydrated as long as they are healthy and avoid heavy exercise in the heat, so there’s no need to try to encourage your pet to drink more.  Just make sure the water supply is in easy reach and doesn’t run dry. 

 2. Be wary of paws on the hot pavement! 

When the weather gets extremely hot, so does the pavement—asphalt, in particular. If you’re taking your dog out for a walk, try to remember that they don’t have shoes to protect against the heat. Even though paw pads are extremely tough, hot surfaces can burn them. Consider using padded booties for their paws to create a barrier between paw pads and the hot concrete.  Better yet, try to steer clear of the streets and walk on the cool grass instead. If there’s an opportunity to wade through some clean water or catch the spray from a sprinkler, that’s even better. Remember that pavement retains heat and you still need to be aware of the risks when you go for walks in the evening.

3. Look out for signs of heatstroke 

Heatstroke is a very serious condition and one to look out for in your pets. As a pet parent, it’s important to be aware of your pet’s fitness level and avoid overexertion when the weather’s too hot or humid. Less athletic dogs, dogs with underlying illnesses, and brachycephalic breeds are at higher risk for developing heatstroke, so keep an extra close eye on them. Heatstroke is life-threatening, but it can be avoided if you take action to cool your pet when they show early signs of heat stress. If your dog doesn’t want to keep walking, lies down in the shade, or digs up cool dirt to lie in, those are clues they’re getting too hot.  Excessive panting that doesn’t improve after a short rest is another indicator. Get out of the heat and offer water to keep the threat of heatstroke from escalating.  Splash down hot ears, paws, and bellies with water to achieve more rapid cooling.

4 Never leave your pet unattended in a hot vehicle 

Heatstroke can happen in the blink of an eye—it cannot be stressed enough that you should never, ever leave your pet unattended in a vehicle. This is true even if you leave the windows down for fresh air or if you think you’ll only be gone for a few minutes. Studies show that even if the outdoor temperature is 72℉ (22°C), a car can rise up to 117℉ (47°C) in only an hour. Imagine how quickly a car can become dangerously hot when outdoor temperatures are a balmy 86℉ (30°C). Even if you’re leaving your car unattended for a minute or think that leaving a window open will help – the life-or-death gamble you’re taking isn’t worth it.

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Pharmaceuticals

Why dosage matters in menopause treatment

By Rizvan Faruk Batha MPharm, PGDip GPP, IPresc, MRPharmS, Superintendent Pharmacist of Specialist Pharmacy.

Bioidentical Hormone Restoration Therapy (BHRT) is an alternative option to traditional synthetic HRT, using bioidentical hormones to treat hormonal conditions in both men and women. BHRT is compounded medicine and put simply, means that the individualised ingredients are mixed together under the direction of a qualified prescriber’s prescription to meet the tailored needs of a patient.

For women going through menopause, compounding treatments are often prescribed later down the line, when a woman has been unable to settle on the appropriate dose of HRT with a General Practitioner, often experiencing severe side effects from either too much or too little HRT. In short, compounded menopause medication offers another route for those patients where the licensed preparation is not appropriate or hasn’t worked.

Patient-led care plays an important role in compounded menopause medicine because the patient is involved throughout the process; during the consultation with the prescribing practitioner, and with the pharmacist developing the customised dosage.

One of the biggest challenges faced by compounding pharmacies is the drugs being classified as unlicensed. For drugs to be licensed, it involves research and clinical trials to assess the efficacy, quality, and safety of the medicines, and because of this process, more often than not it is the recommended route to prescribe licensed medicines. That being said, prescribing unlicensed compounded menopause medicines may be necessary, especially when it comes to the patient’s specific need and interests and where licensed medicines have been unable to satisfactorily meet the needs of the patient or are unsuitable for them.

Utilising compounded menopause medicine as a method to enhance patient care could be beneficial for the many patients that need specific dosing or formulation requirements, but sadly more often than not we see delays to patient needs and treatment, as the rise of mass manufactured licensed medicines have grown in popularity. Compounding menopause medicine could offer huge potential for many, but prescribing practices have moved towards evidence-based medicines because of the responsibility imposed on prescribers for prescribing compounded therapies. Clinicians need to understand that even licensed products are not safe or effective for all patients particularly if the product is being used in a population that were not part of the original clinical trials for the drug.

It is important to know that compounding pharmacies and pharmacists in the UK are also regulated and licensed by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). The GPhC set standards for pharmacists and pharmacies to meet to remain on their register with the aim to protect the public and give them assurance that they will receive safe and effective care when using pharmacy services.

So even though compounded medicines are ‘unlicensed’, there is a lot of due diligence exercised by the pharmacists to ensure the products meet the safe and effective care criteria. This is generally demonstrated through the purchase of medical grade active and inactive pharmaceutical ingredients (with certificates of analysis and safety data sheets), trained staff, following and updating SOPs, audits, traceability of ingredients and products during recalls, as well as continuous learning and error reporting being supported in the pharmacy.

Ultimately, how compounded menopause medicine is viewed will depend on the knowledge and experience of the patients and professionals involved. Although the medicine is unlicensed it is important to understand that experienced clinicians and pharmacists involved in the process of making the decisions are regulated, and patients are consistently monitored during their response to the medicine. If compounded menopause medicine was integrated in the healthcare system, it could change and improve the quality of life of many patients suffering with debilitating menopause symptoms, and we hope as a pharmacy that in the future we will see a shift in how compounded medicine is viewed.

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Lifestyle

We need more than investment in services to solve the mental health crisis.

By Lea Milligan

It’s now widely recognised that there is a crisis in mental health. In September, a staggering 1.6m people in the UK are waiting for mental health treatment on the NHS, and 1 in 4 people globally are impacted by a mental illness at some point in their life.

This crisis is only being exacerbated by the increasing cost of living, global conflicts causing generational trauma and the ongoing fallout from COVID-19.

Lack of equitable access to services, treatment and resources means the most vulnerable in society continue to suffer disproportionately.

Everyone assumes that addressing this crisis requires more doctors, more appointments and more mental health treatment centres. Whilst one answer is, yes, we absolutely need more of these, it’s not the only answer.

More services are not the sole solution: We also need more research.

Mental health research is the secret weapon that often is overlooked by policy makers.

  • Research shows us where to focus resources, so that we don’t just blindly throw money and time at the parts of the system that are not working.
  • Research helps move people through the system faster, giving them more effective treatments and faster diagnoses.
  • Research reduces the number of people requiring acute care by providing effective prevention strategies and intervention methods.

Research speeds up access to services:

The EnCAMHS project, sponsored by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, is working to improve and refine the referral process to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). By mapping and raising awareness among professionals of the different types of support available for children and young people, the EnCAMHS team are hoping to reduce waiting lists and speed up access to care for the most urgent cases.

Research improves treatments:

I have seen firsthand the incredible breakthroughs in treatments that have come from targeted investment in research.

MQ researcher Dr Colette Hirsch from King’s College London developed a new treatment for anxiety and depression called cognitive bias modification for interpretation (CBT-I). New treatments such as this help provide a greater range of treatment choices, more important now than ever because, according to the World Health organisation, the pandemic triggered a 25% increase in anxiety and depression worldwide.

Dr Jennifer Wild from Oxford University has developed a new treatment for PTSD in health care workers, with a 90% recovery rate. This is an unprecedented success rate for a group highly vulnerable to traumatic stress.

And Dr Ethel Mpungu has developed a community-based therapy for people living with both depression and AIDS in rural Uganda. The 578 participants of her study remained symptom free from depression 12 months later. Her work has been internationally recognised and, due to its success and cost-effectiveness, it is being rolled out across other African nations, improving the lives of millions of people.

Research can help us prevent mental ill-health in the first place:

For example, the IDEA (Identifying Depression in Early Adolescence) project has created a prediction model to identify the young people who are most at risk of developing depression in later life. This tool can be used to identify the most vulnerable before depression can take hold, getting them timely interventions that can prevent a lifetime of mental ill-health.

This Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May), plenty of people will be talking about smashing stigmas, reducing loneliness and the need for more mental health support. And, of course, these are absolutely important. Vital even. But don’t forget about research.

Because it is only through research that we can truly make progress.

Lea Milligan is CEO of MQ Mental Health Research, a charity that funds world-class research and innovation to create better mental health care.

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