Published on November 9, 2023, 12:40 am
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given its approval to Eli Lilly’s weight loss drug, Zepbound. This highly anticipated medication is set to join the market alongside other popular obesity medicines such as Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Wegovy. It is predicted that the sales of GLP-1 drugs, including Zepbound, could reach $140 billion by 2032.
Zepbound is administered through weekly injections and it is indicated for patients who are obese or overweight with at least one weight-related condition, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. The FDA’s approval of this drug addresses an unmet medical need in light of the increasing rates of obesity and overweight in the United States.
In a clinical trial involving over 2,500 adults, those taking Zepbound alongside dieting and exercise lost an average of 48 pounds (22 kilograms) on the highest dose and 34 pounds on the lowest dose, compared to seven pounds on a placebo. The average weight at the start of the trial was 231 pounds. Losing five to ten percent of body weight through diet and exercise has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Joe Nadglowski, president and CEO of the Obesity Action Coalition, commented that new treatment options like Zepbound offer hope to individuals struggling with obesity and seeking better options for weight management.
However, it is important to note that Zepbound comes with a high list price of $1,059.87 per month. This price may limit access for many individuals since insurance companies often do not cover weight loss medications. Medicare, which provides state-subsidized insurance for the elderly, is also unable to cover this drug. Nonetheless, Eli Lilly has stated that individuals covered by insurance may only need to pay $25 for a one- or three-month prescription.
Although GLP-1 receptor agonists, the class of drugs that Zepbound belongs to, have gained popularity for weight loss, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that they can increase the risk of certain severe gastrointestinal problems. These included stomach paralysis, pancreatitis, and bowel obstruction. Patients considering these drugs for weight loss should be aware of these risks.
Zepbound has been associated with side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal discomfort and pain, injection site reactions, fatigue, allergic reactions, burping, hair loss, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. In animal studies with rats, it has been found to cause thyroid C-cell tumors; however, it is currently unknown if the same effect occurs in humans.
While Zepbound offers a new treatment option for individuals struggling with obesity or being overweight and facing related health conditions, it is crucial to consider potential side effects and discuss this medication with a healthcare professional before use.