As more Americans try to get their hands on the prescription medication Wegovy while they try to shed significant amounts of weight, an even more powerful obesity drug is poised to enter the fray.
On Thursday, drug maker Eli Lilly & Co. announced that its type 2 diabetes drug tirzepatide (Mounjaro) helped people with diabetes who were overweight or obese lose nearly 16% of their body weight, or more than 34 pounds, over 17 months.
This late-stage study of the drug adds to earlier evidence published last summer in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed overweight or obese people without diabetes lost up to 22% of their body weight over that period with weekly injections of the drug. For a typical patient on the highest dose, that meant shedding more than 50 pounds.
Results from both studies will now be part of the company’s application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for fast-track approval of the drug for weight loss.
“We have not hit 15% in any other phase 3 trial for weight management in this type 2 diabetes population,” Dr. Nadia Ahmad, an associate vice president at Eli Lilly and medical director of obesity clinical development for the company, told CNN.
Importantly, this data has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal.
“In the last year, [it] has been really exciting just to have more tools in the toolbox, so to speak. And tools that, you know, we’re seeing really achieving outcomes that patients for the longest time have been hoping to achieve,” Dr. Kimberly Gudzune, medical director of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, told CNN.
Tirzepatide works by stimulating the body to produce insulin after eating, lowering blood sugar while helping people feel full longer by slowing food’s movement from the stomach, CNN reported. Side effects have included nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
These successes could make the drug a stiff competitor of semaglutide, sold as Ozempic for diabetes patients and Wegovy for those seeking weight loss who have at least one weight-related health issue. That drug is made by Novo Nordisk. When approved by the FDA last summer, trials showed Wegovy led to a 12.4% average weight loss in obese and overweight people who did not have diabetes.
Eli Lilly now plans to pit Mounjaro against Wegovy in a study of 700 participants around the United States and Canada.
Some of the excitement surrounding these powerful diabetes drugs has prompted off-label use of the medications and triggered shortages for type 2 diabetes patients who need the drugs for blood sugar control.
“I am aware of and I’ve heard, you know, it [Mounjaro] being sort of used off-label for weight loss and individuals who do not have diabetes,” Gudzune said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on obesity.
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