The prevalence of obesity worldwide is continuing to increase, with over 2.6 million people affected in 2020. This number is projected to reach over 4 billion by 2035, according to the World Obesity Federation. Obesity is associated with serious health risks, including stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and certain types of cancer. In response to this growing problem, several weight-loss drugs have been developed, including Zepbound, which has recently been approved by the FDA.
Zepbound, developed by Eli Lilly and Company, has received FDA approval for chronic weight management in adults who are obese or overweight and have at least one weight-related health condition. This medication contains tirzepatide, a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, which is also found in another weight-loss drug called Mounjaro. However, Zepbound has an additional component that activates a second hormone receptor called glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP), potentially improving sugar metabolism.
The approval of Zepbound by the FDA is based on the results of clinical trials, including the SURMOUNT-1 and SURMOUNT-2 studies. These trials demonstrated that participants who took the highest dose of Zepbound lost an average of 48 lbs over 72 weeks, while those on the lowest dose lost an average of 34 lbs. Additionally, one in three participants on the highest dose lost over 58 lbs or 25% of their body weight, which is comparable to the results of surgical weight loss procedures.
It is important to note that Zepbound, like other weight-loss medications, is self-injected. It is prescribed to adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or greater for obesity or a BMI of 27 kg/m2 or greater for overweight individuals with a weight-related medical issue. It should be used in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.
However, it is crucial to be aware of the potential side effects of Zepbound and other weight-loss medications, particularly gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation. There are also warnings about the potential risk of severe gastrointestinal adverse reactions and thyroid C-cell tumors, although it is uncertain if Zepbound directly causes these tumors in humans.
Dr. Mir Ali, a bariatric surgeon, emphasizes that FDA approval of tirzepatide will provide greater access to this medication for individuals who may not have been able to obtain it off-label. However, it is important for patients to consult with their primary care doctor or seek a referral to a weight-loss specialist to determine the most suitable weight-loss drug and ensure insurance coverage.
While weight-loss medications like Zepbound offer promise, it is essential to recognize that they are not a cure-all. Lifestyle changes, including dietary modifications and regular exercise, remain crucial for achieving optimal health. Education and behavioral interventions are also necessary for long-term success when using these medications.
It is important to exercise caution when considering weight-loss compounded drugs, as they are not subject to FDA oversight and may not have undergone the same safety and efficacy evaluations as approved medications.