New obesity jab that sparked row between diabetics and slimmers in US could be approved for weight loss on NHS
A new once-a-week obesity jab that sparked a huge row in the US between diabetes patients and obese people could soon be approved in the UK for those wanting to lose weight.
Tirzepatide, from Eli Lilly and Company and sold under the brand name Mounjaro, is currently approved by UK regulators for type 2 diabetes but may also soon be approved for obesity. Analysis suggests it helps people shed large amounts of body fat. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is seeing whether the drug would be a good use of NHS funds before recommending or rejecting it for use across the health service.
The drug previously became a TikTok sensation in the US after Eli Lilly produced a coupon allowing access to the jab for just $25 monthly. However, a row later ensued after obese people looking to lose weight and avoid future diabetes and those already suffering from diabetes were up against each other to gain access to the sought after drug.
This clash was then exacerbated when Eli Lilly made access to the weekly jab all the more exclusive by raising its price considerably – it was reportedly being sold for just $25 per month originally, before spiking to $1,000 as it increased in popularity.
In a new study, presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Dublin but not yet peer-reviewed, researchers conducted an analysis of 2,539 adults who were overweight or obese and had at least one weight-related complication, excluding diabetes. They were split into groups to either receive a placebo drug, or 5mg, 10mg or 15mg doses of tirzepatide.
The proportion of people who lost weight compared with the start of the study, and those who lost more than 5 per cent of their body weight in total, were assessed across BMI categories 27 to 30, 30 to 35, 35 to 40 and 40 and over. Body composition was also evaluated in a smaller group who underwent specialised scans to look at their fat mass and their lean mass.
At the start of the study, people typically weighed more than 16st (104.8kg) and had a BMI of 38. The average body weight loss after 72 weeks of weekly injections was 16 per cent for the 5mg dose group, 21 per cent for the 10mg and 23 per cent for the 15mg group. This compared with a 2 per cent loss on placebo.
The proportion of people who lost 5 per cent or more of their body weight was 89 per cent on the 5mg dose, 96 per cent on the 10mg and 96 per cent with 15mg. This compared with 28 per cent on the placebo.
Furthermore, more than half of people (56 per cent) in the 10mg group and 63 per cent in the 15mg group lost a fifth or more of their body weight compared with 1 per cent on placebo. All doses of the drug led to weight loss regardless of original BMI.
The authors said: “In this 72-week trial in participants with obesity, tirzepatide once weekly provided substantial reductions in body weight, consistent across all BMI categories, with improvement in body composition that was clinically meaningful and consistent across age groups.”
Tirzepatide is available in the US and the latest addition to a hugely popular and growing market for weight loss injections that have caused controversy between diabetics, patients with obesity desperate to avoid a diabetes diagnosis, and those just looking to lose weight. Those who have a clinical need for the drugs believe those who do not are making it increasingly difficult to get hold of them.
Nice has approved a different drug, semaglutide, sold under the brand name Wegovy, for use on the NHS for obesity. Another drug, Ozempic, is available for people with diabetes. However, Elon Musk and Jeremy Clarkson are among those who have said how helpful the latter has been in helping the shed the pounds.
Pharmacists were originally expecting to begin receiving supply of Wegovy this month, but the launch of the drug on the NHS has been delayed indefinitely. Its makers, Novo Nordisk, want to be able to meet demand when it does become available.