Everything you need to know about the new weight loss drug

  • The FDA is expected to approve tirzepatide for weight loss this year.
  • Clinical trials found that patients lost an average of 22.5% of their body weight with the drug.
  • The drug should not be affordable for most.

A drug currently approved to improve blood sugar regulation in adults with type 2 diabetes is expected to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for weight loss this year – and there are many concerns about whether who can afford it.

The drug, called tirzepatide (or its brand name Monjaro), could generate up to $48 billion in annual sales and could become the most popular drug once approved, experts say. BNC News.

Its use is set to expand to include weight loss treatment thanks to impressive results from a Phase 3 clinical trial. In the trial, researchers found that patients lost an average of 22.5% of their body weight (about 52 pounds). In comparison, similar weight-loss drugs, Wegovy and Saxenda, reduced body weight by approximately 15% (Wegovy) and 5% (Saxenda).

But what exactly is tirzepatide and how does it work? Here’s what you need to know.

What is Tirzepatide?

Tirzepatide belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1 agonists, which mimic hormones involved in blood sugar control and appetite. It’s taken by injection once a week and has been shown to decrease the amount of food people eat and increase the amount of energy they burn, according to a press release from drugmaker Eli Lilly.

There are other GLP-1 agonists on the market – Wegovy and Saxenda – but tirzepatide contains a component that mimics a hormone called GIP that can reduce appetite and improve the way your body breaks down sugar and fat, explains Eli Lilly. The elements of the drug “work together to improve how the brain perceives weight, leading to weight loss and better blood sugar regulation,” says Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, Ph.D. obesity medicine and clinical researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital. .

In phase 3 clinical trials, patients lost an average of 15 pounds more with tirzepatide than with placebo and an average of 23 pounds more than the placebo group when they used tirzepatide and insulin.

“Currently, GLP-1 agonists are very popular for weight loss,” says Jamie Alan, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University. “It is expected that this drug will be much more beneficial.”

“It’s another tool to help with weight loss,” says Mir Ali, MD, bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. “But if it’s not used properly, with lifestyle modifications – it will eventually not work.

What is tirzepatide used for?

Tirzepatide is currently FDA-approved to help improve blood sugar regulation in adults with type 2 diabetes as an adjunct to diet and exercise (as of May 2022). The drug specifically helps control blood sugar and is also injected under the skin once a week. The dose is adjusted as people reach their blood sugar goals, the FDA explains.

What does mean tirzepatide Cost?

Right now, GoodRx says tirzepatide costs between $900 and about $1,200 for four pens without health insurance. However, the cost of the drug “is going to vary depending on the insurance,” says Alan.

Stephanie Field, director of pharmaceutical operations at Corewell Health West, says patients with type 2 diabetes who qualify for co-pay assistance through Eli Lilly can pay as little as $25 per month. However, this is for patients taking the drug for diabetes, not for weight loss.

Is it covered by insurance?

Currently, the drug “is only covered for patients with type 2 diabetes,” Field said, noting that “use for weight loss is considered off-label and not covered under the drug.” ‘patient insurance’. (However, that could change once the drug receives FDA approval for weight loss.)

Once tirzepatide is approved by the FDA, Dr. Ali says it is “unlikely” to be approved by most insurance companies. “If so, it will be quite expensive for most patients,” he says. “I hope that will change over time.”

Field says patients can expect the cost of tirzepatide for weight loss to be similar to other similar drugs on the market. “There are two GLP-1 drugs with FDA-approved weight loss indications – Saxenda and Wegovy,” Field says. “Patient cash prices can vary by pharmacy, but average around $1,000 for a month’s worth of medication.”

However, if you have a high level of insurance coverage, Dr. Stanford says the drug may be more affordable. “Otherwise it would be prohibitively expensive,” she adds.

who can afford tirzepatide?

It depends. “It depends on your insurance. It also depends on your own personal finances and how important this drug is to you,” says Alan. Once the drug is approved by the FDA, “some insurance may cover it for diabetes or pre-diabetes and not cover it for weight loss,” says Alan.

How safe is tirzepatide for weight loss?

In general, the drug is “pretty safe,” says Alan. However, she adds, “we will know more as more people take this drug.” Currently, the FDA lists the following as potential side effects of tirzepatide:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • decreased appetite
  • constipation
  • upper abdominal discomfort
  • abdominal pain

Nausea is a common side effect, Alan points out, but tirzepatide is still generally considered a safe option. “Always talk to your doctor to see if this medication is safe for you,” says Alan.

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