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Is Zepbound a new weight loss miracle drug?

Is Zepbound a new weight loss miracle drug?
Photo by Anna Shvets for Pexels

Following the exploding popularity of Ozempic and Wegovy, a new injectable becomes available for those struggling to lose weight.

For the past year or so, the words “Ozempic” and “Wegovy” have been on many lips. Utilizing an ingredient that suppresses appetite, the weight loss medications found many fans, including some celebrities. Now, a new weight loss drug has been cleared for use by the Food and Drug Administration — Eli Lilly’s Zepbound.

Like Ozempic and Wegovy, Zepbound (the brand name for the drug tirzepatide) is part of a class of drugs known as GLP-1 agonists. While Ozempic is typically prescribed to those with diabetes, Zepbound, like Wegovy, is for those who don’t already suffer from diabetes but suffer from obesity or excess weight that is complicating their health. All three drugs are injectable medications.

In announcing the approval of Zepbound, the FDA pointed out that about 70 percent of Americans have excess weight and many of those people have health conditions because of it. Dropping 5-10 percent of one’s body weight can wield huge health benefits, the agency stated.

“Obesity and overweight are serious conditions that can be associated with some of the leading causes of death such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes,” said John Sharretts, M.D., director of the Division of Diabetes, Lipid Disorders, and Obesity in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “In light of increasing rates of both obesity and overweight in the United States, [the] approval addresses an unmet medical need.”

While the FDA touts the dramatic effects of dropping even 5 percent of one’s body weight, a phase 3 clinical trial of Zepbound utilizing the highest dose of tirzepatide yielded a staggering 22.5 percent average body weight loss. Even at lower doses, patients reported impressive reductions of weight.

While Ozempic and Wegovy’s active ingredient, semaglutide, reduces appetite similar to tirzepatide, the latter drug also appears to improve metabolism, helping the body break down sugar and fat.

Zepbound is approved for those with a body mass index of at least 30 or a BMI of 27 if they suffer from a weight-related condition, which could include problems like sleep apnea or high blood pressure.

Cost may be a deterrent for those interested in taking Zepbound as many insurance carriers and Medicare do not cover weight loss medications. Eli Lilly suggests visiting their website to sign up for possible copays or discounts.

Ozempic, Wegovy, and now Zepbound are options for people living with HIV trying to shed excess weight, at least according to Rajesh Gandhi, MD, of Harvard Medical School. “GLP-1 agonists are revolutionizing the treatment of obesity in the general population, and I have no doubt they will do the same in people with HIV,” Gandhi said at the New England Journal of Medicine conference in October.

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Neal Broverman