Published on November 9, 2023, 12:35 am
The US Food and Drug Administration has recently approved a new weight management drug called Zepbound, which is made by American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. This injectable drug is designed for adults who are overweight or obese and have at least one weight-related condition, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol.
Zepbound contains tirzepatide as its active ingredient, which is already approved under the name Mounjaro to help improve blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes. However, it is commonly prescribed off-label for weight loss purposes. Similar to the well-known drugs Wegovy and Ozempic, which are both manufactured by Danish company Novo Nordisk, Zepbound and Mounjaro mimic a hormone called GLP-1 that naturally occurs in the body. GLP-1 helps lower blood sugar levels, regulates appetite, and slows stomach emptying. Additionally, Zepbound and Mounjaro act on another hormone called GIP to reduce food intake.
Originally developed to treat type 2 diabetes, GLP-1 drugs are now being increasingly used for weight loss. With approximately 70% of American adults classified as overweight or obese, the demand for these drugs has skyrocketed. In fact, both Ozempic and Wegovy have been on the FDA’s drug shortage list since March 2022 due to limited production capacity. To manage this situation, Novo Nordisk has restricted the number of new patients starting Wegovy treatment by limiting the supply of low-dose injections.
However, with the approval of Zepbound by the FDA, individuals seeking ways to lose weight now have another option available to them. Like Ozempic and Wegovy, Zepbound is also initiated at a low dose that is gradually increased over time.
Eli Lilly conducted trials involving 2,539 adults with obesity or excess weight and weight-related medical issues other than diabetes to support the approval of Zepbound. The results showed significant weight loss among participants who took Zepbound along with making diet and exercise changes compared to those who received a placebo. At the highest dose of 15 milligrams, people taking Zepbound lost an average of 48 pounds, while those on a low dose of 5 milligrams lost an average of 34 pounds. In comparison, participants receiving a placebo lost only seven pounds on average.
It should be noted that some individuals experienced gastrointestinal reactions, including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, or abdominal pain when taking Zepbound.
Eli Lilly has announced that Zepbound is expected to be available in the United States by the end of this year at a list price of $1,059.87 per month. Wegovy costs approximately $1,349 per month without insurance coverage. Although diabetes treatments are typically covered by insurance plans, drugs specifically for weight management may not be included. To assist individuals who may benefit from using Zepbound but face financial challenges, Eli Lilly will be implementing a commercial savings card program.
In addition to injectable forms of GLP-1 drugs like Zepbound and its competitors, there are also ongoing developments in creating pill versions. This could make these drugs even more appealing to patients. Furthermore, new data on the cardiovascular benefits of GLP-1 drugs is expected to be presented at an upcoming American Heart Association meeting, which could further increase demand for these types of medications.
As obesity rates continue to rise globally and with growing recognition of the health risks associated with excess weight, finding effective pharmaceutical interventions for weight loss is increasingly important. The approval of Zepbound offers another tool in the fight against obesity and provides hope for individuals seeking safe and medically supported options for sustainable weight management.