Federal regulators approved a new weight loss drug this week that promises to set another benchmark in the appetite-suppressing drug industry.
Eli Lilly’s Zepbound, also known as tirzepatide, is the latest in a class of medications known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). Such drugs have yielded some promising weight loss results.
As revealed in a press release from the Indianapolis-based pharma giant issued on November 8, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Zepbound for chronic weight management in adults with obesity and at least one health condition related to excess weight, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
To test Zepbound’s effectiveness, Eli Lilly researchers conducted several studies involving people with and without diabetes at three-dose levels administered via injection once a week. The participants’ average starting weight was 231 pounds.
Among participants taking the highest dose of Zepbound (15 mg), 1 in 3 lost over 58 pounds or 25% of their body weight after 72 weeks. At the lowest dose of 5 mg, participants lost an average of 34 pounds.
Side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal pain, fatigue, hair loss, and gastroesophageal reflux disease were reported, with severe cases representing less than 5% of participants.
Kelly Burns was one of the trial participants in 2021. She reportedly lost nearly 100 pounds and saw improvements in her health.
“My whole life is completely different,” she said, according to WFAA.
The off-label use of tirzepatide under the brand name Mounjaro, a medication used to increase insulin sensitivity among type 2 diabetes patients, has been prevalent. Zepbound will cost the same as Mounjaro, approximately $1,000 a month.
Due to many health insurance companies opting not to cover weight loss drug treatment, which includes Medicare, some experts say Zepbound’s approval by the FDA will likely not boost access to the drug.
“Most patients won’t be able to afford Zepbound without insurance coverage, and many health plans exclude obesity care,” said Dr. Katherine Saunders, an obesity expert at New York’s Weill Cornell Medicine, according to WFAA.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, Eli Lilly, the Danish company Novo Nordisk, and other pharmaceutical firms have been racing to develop new weight loss drugs as obesity rates continue to climb.
Over 100 million adults and around 15 million children are classified as obese — having a body mass index of 30 or more — in the United States. Obesity reportedly carries a heightened risk of acquiring other serious health conditions, including certain types of cancer.
“Despite our knowledge of obesity as a treatable, chronic disease, people living with obesity still face many challenges in their health and weight management journey,” said Joe Nadglowski, president and CEO of the Obesity Action Coalition, according to Eli Lilly’s news release.
“New treatment options bring hope to the many people with obesity who struggle with this disease and are seeking better options for weight management,” he said.