U.S. regulators announced Wednesday that a new iteration of the popular diabetes treatment Mounjaro is now cleared for sale as a weight-loss medication. The approved drug, Eli Lilly’s Zepbound, also known as tirzepatide, has showcased significant weight reduction benefits in recent studies, helping dieters shed approximately a quarter of their body weight, equivalent to about 60 pounds (27 kilograms).
Zepbound marks the latest addition to diabetes drugs approved for weight management, standing alongside Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy, an intensified version of its diabetes treatment Ozempic.
The FDA has sanctioned Lilly’s drug specifically for individuals categorized as obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. Additionally, it’s available for those who are overweight and experiencing related health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. The regulatory agency emphasizes the necessity of pairing the drug with a balanced diet and regular exercise regimen.
41.9% of adults aged 60 and above grapple with obesity
The core components—tirzepatide in Zepbound and Mounjaro, as well as semaglutide in Wegovy and Ozempic—function by replicating post-meal hormones that regulate appetite and the sensation of fullness. Both emulate the hormone GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1), with tirzepatide additionally targeting another hormone called GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide).
Comparative studies indicate that Zepbound may induce more substantial weight loss than Wegovy. While Wegovy, cleared for chronic weight management in 2021, facilitated around a 15 percent reduction in body weight or approximately 34 pounds (15.4 kilograms) in study participants.
Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity medicine expert at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, highlighted, “This would be the most highly efficacious drug ever approved for the treatment of obesity.”
Medically directed weight loss program
When it comes to achieving sustainable weight loss and overall well-being, a medically directed weight loss program stands out as a superior option. Unlike fad diets or quick-fix solutions, a medically supervised program takes a holistic and evidence-based approach to address individual health needs.
These programs are tailored to the specific requirements of each participant, considering factors like age, medical history, lifestyle, and underlying health conditions. The guidance of trained healthcare professionals ensures that weight loss is achieved safely and with a focus on long-term results. Medical supervision also provides a comprehensive understanding of the metabolic and physiological aspects of weight management, making it possible to create a customized plan that promotes not only weight loss but also improved health, reduced risks of obesity-related conditions, and sustainable lifestyle changes.
In this way, a medically directed weight loss program offers a well-rounded, scientifically grounded, and effective approach to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
Semaglutide and tirzepatide have gained immense popularity
Championed by celebrities and hyped on social media. Their soaring demand has posed challenges for manufacturers, resulting in both drugs being listed on the FDA’s drug shortage site for several months. Presently, all strengths of tirzepatide are marked as available, yet availability may fluctuate based on location and demand, according to a company spokesperson.
Despite the promise these drugs hold for weight loss, they come with a range of potential side effects, including vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and other gastrointestinal issues. Recent trials revealed that approximately 10 percent of individuals taking tirzepatide withdrew from the study due to these concerns, compared to about 2 percent taking placebos.
While the approval of Zepbound was celebrated by experts, concerns emerged regarding its accessibility. It’s been used “off-label” to aid weight loss, but experts worry that widespread access might not materialize due to cost barriers.
Dr. Katherine Saunders, an obesity specialist at New York’s Weill Cornell Medicine, highlighted the financial hurdle for patients, stating, “Most patients won’t be able to afford Zepbound without insurance coverage, and many health plans exclude obesity care.”
Eli Lilly and Co. announced a list price of approximately $1,000 per month for Zepbound, aligning with Mounjaro’s pricing. However, Medicare regulations prohibit coverage specifically for drugs intended for weight loss.
Kelly Burns from St. Petersburg, Florida, experienced a remarkable weight loss of nearly 100 pounds (45 kilograms) using tirzepatide during a drug trial for obesity treatment. After the trial concluded and access to the medication ceased, Burns faced difficulties but eventually lost an additional 50 pounds (23 kilograms).
Expressing the transformative impact of the drug on her life, Burns emphasized the significant improvements in her health measurements and confidence. Now that it’s approved for weight loss, Burns intends to explore coverage options through her insurance company, acknowledging the vital role the medication played in her transformation: “It would be ridiculous not to. I want to stay this way as long as I possibly can.”