FDA Approves Zepbound as a Weight-Loss Drug: Promising Treatment for Obesity with Potential Accessibility Challenges

Published on November 9, 2023, 12:41 am

FDA Approves Zepbound as a Weight-Loss Drug: Promising Treatment for Obesity with Potential Accessibility Challenges

A new version of the popular diabetes treatment, Mounjaro, has been approved as a weight-loss drug by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The drug, called Zepbound or tirzepatide, has been shown to help dieters lose about a quarter of their body weight, or 60 pounds (27 kilograms), in a recent study. This approval makes Zepbound the latest diabetes medication to be approved for weight loss, joining Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy, which is a high-dose version of their diabetes treatment Ozempic.

Zepbound has been approved by the FDA for use in people who are considered obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, or those who are overweight with a related health condition such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. The FDA recommends that Zepbound be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise for optimal results.

The mechanism of action behind Zepbound and other similar drugs lies in their ability to mimic hormones that regulate appetite and the feeling of fullness. These drugs imitate a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and target another hormone called glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP). By mimicking these hormones, Zepbound appears to induce greater weight loss compared to Wegovy.

While experts have applauded the approval of Zepbound as an effective treatment for obesity, concerns have been raised regarding its accessibility. The cost of the drug could pose a challenge for many patients without insurance coverage since most health plans exclude obesity care. Eli Lilly and Co., the manufacturer of Zepbound, has set the list price at approximately $1,000 per month.

As with any medication, there are potential side effects associated with Zepbound. These include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and other gastrointestinal problems. In the most recent clinical trial, approximately 10 percent of participants discontinued tirzepatide due to these side effects, compared to only about 2 percent in the control group who received placebo injections.

Despite the potential challenges associated with accessibility and side effects, patients who have already experienced significant weight loss with tirzepatide are hopeful for expanded access to the medication. Kelly Burns, for example, lost nearly 100 pounds (45 kilograms) using tirzepatide during a study on obesity treatment. After the study concluded and she no longer had access to the drug, she continued her weight loss journey and lost another 50 pounds (23 kilograms). As Zepbound is now approved for weight loss, Burns plans to inquire about coverage through her insurance company.

In conclusion, the FDA’s approval of Zepbound as a weight-loss drug offers hope for individuals struggling with obesity. However, affordability and insurance coverage remain barriers to accessing this treatment for many patients. Nevertheless, the availability of effective medications like Zepbound provides new possibilities for achieving sustainable weight loss and improving overall health.