FDA approves new weight loss drug

On Nov. 8, the FDA approved Eli Lilly's Zepbound (tirzepatide), a weekly injection for chronic weight management. 

The injectable solution is approved for obese or overweight adults who have at least one weight-related condition, such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol. A health regimen of more exercise and fewer calories is also part of Zepbound's label.

Here are four things to know about the drug:

1. Zepbound is an glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist — a drug class typically indicated for Type 2 diabetes, such as Novo Nordisk's Ozempic and Eli Lilly's Mounjaro, another tirzepatide drug. The only other GLP-1s also approved for weight loss are Novo Nordisk's Saxenda (liraglutide) and Wegovy (semaglutide). 

2. GLP-1s mimic a gut hormone that suppresses appetite and promotes a feeling of fullness, and the market for these drugs is booming, according to industry reports and hospital systems. The CEO of Walmart said he believes the surge in popularity for these drugs is related to a decrease in food purchases. 

3. In a trial not including adults with diabetes, study participants who received Zepbound lost, on average, 18% of their body weight compared to those who took a placebo. In a trial with adults with diabetes, the highest approved dosage — 15 milligrams — resulted in a 12% weight loss average compared to the placebo. 

Wegovy, in comparison, resulted in an average 15% weight loss among study participants.

4. Zepbound's side effects are nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal discomfort and pain, injection site reactions, fatigue, allergic reactions, burping, hair loss and gastroesophageal reflux disease, according to the FDA. 

In rats, the drug caused thyroid C-cell tumors, and it's unclear if Zepbound causes tumors in humans. Because of this unknown, "Zepbound should not be used in patients with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer or in patients with Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2," the FDA said.

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