Powerful new obesity drug poised to upend weight loss care
April 28, 2023 -As a growing number of overweight Americans clamor for Ozempic and Wegovy — drugs touted by celebrities and on TikTok to pare pounds — an even more powerful obesity medicine is poised to upend treatment.
Tirzepatide, an Eli Lilly and Co. drug approved to treat type 2 diabetes under the brand name Mounjaro, helped people with the disease who were overweight or had obesity lose up to 16% of their body weight, or more than 34 pounds, over nearly 17 months, the company said on Thursday.
The late-stage study of the drug for weight loss adds to earlier evidence that similar participants without diabetes lost up to 22% of their body weight over that period with weekly injections of the drug. For a typical patient on the highest dose, that meant shedding more than 50 pounds.
Having diabetes makes it notoriously difficult to lose weight, said Dr. Nadia Ahmad, Lilly’s medical director of obesity clinical development, which means the recent results are especially significant. “We have not seen this degree of weight reduction,” she said.
Based on the new results, which have not yet been published in full, company officials said they will finalize an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for fast-track approval to sell tirzepatide for chronic weight management. A decision could come later this year. A company spokeswoman would not confirm whether the drug would be marketed for weight loss in the U.S. under a different brand name.
If approved for weight loss, tirzepatide could become the most effective drug to date in an arsenal of medications that are transforming the treatment of obesity, which affects more than 4 in 10 American adults and is linked to dozens of diseases that can lead to disability or death.
“If everybody who had obesity in this country lost 20% of their body weight, we would be taking patients off all of these medications for reflux, for diabetes, for hypertension,” said Dr. Caroline Apovian, a director of the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “We would not be sending patients for stent replacement.”