A new drug that could revolutionize the fight against obesity is undergoing a speedy review by the FDA. Some financial analysts predict that the drug could break records, with up to $48 billion in annual sales.
Tirzepatide is a novel weight loss drug that could usher in a new era of weight loss because it works. According to a recent clinical study, patients who received a high dose of the drug lost up to 21% of their body weight, which is more than any other weight loss medication currently available.
Function of Trrzepatide
Interestingly, Tirzepatide wasn’t designed to treat obesity. It was designed to mimic a hormone traditionally believed to cause weight gain. The drug works by mimicking two hormones released by the gut that stimulate insulin production following a meal: glycogen-like protein-1 (GLP-1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP).
The two hormones stimulate insulin, which encourages body cells to take up glucose, thus dropping blood glucose levels.
The researchers suspected that Tirzepatide would make a good type 2 diabetes treatment, and their assumptions were correct. Clinical trials revealed that the dual-targeting drug helped about 50% of patients achieve long-term glucose control. However, those trials also revealed a big surprise: Tirzepatide provides weight loss that surpasses the leading weight loss drugs.
Tirzepatide acts like a new synthetic hormone that triggers slightly different cellular processes than the natural hormones it was designed to mimic. Cells in the gut secrete GLP-1 and GIP as two separate molecules that can interact with their respective receptors independently of each other. Tirzepatide, on the other hand, is a single molecule that binds both receptors.
Furthermore, the Tirzepatide molecule has special regions that allow it to remain stable longer than naturally produced hormones. These structural alterations may cause the dual-active drug to act differently than the two natural hormones do independently. While the exact mechanisms of how Tirzepatide works are not yet fully understood, the fact that it works so well is indisputable.
Fighting Off Obesity
Obesity is a major public health concern because it is linked to several other serious conditions and diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer, asthma, and hypercholesterolemia. To ease the stress of the lipid-laden cells and repair metabolic and inflammatory dysfunction, people with obesity often need to reduce their body weight by at least 5% to 10%.
The traditional intervention to achieve this reduction is lifestyle changes, such as a better diet and more exercise. However, these changes don’t work for everyone, and when it comes to metabolic and inflammatory dysfunction, the sooner it is repaired, the better.
A handful of drugs can reduce body weight by 5% to 10%, but they don’t work for everyone. For example, orlistat, approved in 1999, only works in about half of the patients. However, that trend has changed in recent years. Semaglutide, approved in 2021, helped 86% of patients drop at least 5% of their body weight, with an average weight loss of 15% (compared to 2.4% for placebo).
Since its approval, Semaglutide (sold under the brand name Wegovy) has been hailed as a “transformative breakthrough” in the battle against obesity. However, the new drug, Tirzepatide, has left Semaglutide in its shadow, with 91% of patients seeing a reduction of at least 5% and an average weight loss of 21% for the highest dose (compared to 3.1% for placebo). The company plans to apply for drug approval in April 2023.