WASHINGTON, DC – November 8, 2023 – On November 8th, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new weight-loss medicine called Zepbound. Its generic name is tirzepatide. Qualifying patients must be obese, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) at 30 or greater, or overweight, with a BMI greater than or equal to 27, and with at least one weight-related medical problem. The drug should be used in combination with regular exercise and a low-calorie diet. Zepbound is a version of the popular diabetes medicine Mounjaro, both made by Eli Lilly. The FDA’s authorization was based on a study that showed that patients without diabetes can lose about 18% of their body weight and a study of diabetic patients who lost about 12%. The drug should be available in the U.S. by the end of the year.
New diabetic and weight-loss drugs may be the answer to the obesity epidemic in the United States. Ozempic, (with the active ingredient semaglutide), made by Novo Nordisk, was originally developed to treat diabetes by controlling blood sugar. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Ozempic for treating diabetes in 2017. However, rapid weight loss after taking the medicine dramatically increased its popularity. In 2021, the FDA approved Wegovy, a similar drug made by the same company with a higher dose of the semaglutide, to treat obesity. Wegovy’s indications are the same as Zepbound. More than 100 million adults and 15 million children in America are considered obese, putting them at risk for the development of weight-related health problems like high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Studies have shown that obese patients can lose about 15-20% of their body weight taking Wegovy and Mounjaro, respectively.
Each of the 4 drugs are appetite suppressors. They work by mimicking hormones that are released after people eat by creating the feeling of fullness. Tirzepatide and semaglutide bind with receptors in the pancreas that stimulate insulin production which lowers blood sugar. They also bind with receptors in the brain’s appetite control center to suppress hunger. Ozempic has been proven effective in treating high blood sugar associated with diabetes and it can also lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease in diabetics. In a recent study from the Cleveland Clinic published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Wegovy has been shown to reduce the risk of serious heart problems in people without diabetes. Most people will have to take the drugs their entire life or they will gain their weight back. These medicines are administered by a weekly shot.
Common side-effects are nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and constipation. Other known side effects include dehydration, fatigue and headaches. Long-term complications are small but include a higher risk of thyroid cancer, acute pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, low blood sugar, damage to kidneys, injury to the retina, and suicidal thoughts.
The weight loss drugs will have to be taken indefinitely, so these medicines become a costly expense. Each drug cost about $1 thousand a month. The annual cost can be more than $12 thousand. Most insurers do not cover the cost of these medicines for weight loss. However, the pharmaceutical companies are heavily lobbying commercial insurers and government-funded Medicare to cover the cost of the weight-loss drugs because they may keep people healthier too.
The medicines are so popular that they have been worldwide shortages since the latter part of 2022. The diabetes medicine Ozempic has been frequently prescribed off-label for weight loss due to the shortage of Wegovy.
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Contact: Dr. Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, email@example.com