Highly Effective New Weight Loss Drug Hits U.S. Pharmacies Amid Ozempic Shortage
It's also hoped that Zepbound will help bring down the cost of the popular medications.
The recent surge in the popularity of weight loss drugs such as Wegovy—as well as the diabetes drug Ozempic that's prescribed off-label for weight loss—is shaping up to what could be a transformative moment in how people shed pounds. Unfortunately, the potentially life-changing medications have also been hindered from getting to some who may need them most by high costs and mounting supply problems. But now, the new weight loss drug Zepbound has hit U.S. pharmacies, which could potentially help alleviate some issues amid an Ozempic shortage. Read on to see how the arrival of the highly effective medication might affect prescriptions.
The weight loss drug Zepbound is now available for prescription.
The booming weight loss medication market just got a little more robust. On Dec. 4, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly announced that its new drug, Zepbound, is available in U.S. pharmacies.
The prescription weight loss medication is hitting shelves roughly a month after the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued its approval. Previously, the drug—which is named tirzepatide—was available on the market as Mounjaro but was only approved for treating type 2 diabetes in adults, CNN reports.
According to the company's press release, Zepbound can be prescribed for adults with obesity, whose body mass index (BMI) deems them overweight, or who suffer from weight-related health issues, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, or heart disease.
The new medication could offer some relief as other drugs like Ozempic are in short supply.
Zepbound's arrival also comes at a time when similar medications are facing a tight shortage. The dwindling supplies have unfortunately left some who rely on the medications for serious health reasons empty-handed.
"Over the past three to four months, I've had patients tell me that they can't get [Mounjaro]," Jody Dushay, MD, a clinical endocrinologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, told CNN in October. "I'm aware of our supply literally on a day-to-day basis."
On Nov. 27, Wegovy and Ozempic manufacturer Novo Nordisk also announced it would start rationing starter dosage kits of Ozempic in Europe amid a supply crunch, Reuters reported. The company also said it would begin reducing supplies of its diabetes drug Victoza so it could allocate resources toward producing more of its blockbuster counterpart.
Zepbound's lower price could potentially drive down costs for other drugs.
Tirzepatide's arrival with a broader set of approved uses could help alleviate some of the ongoing stocking issues for pharmacies. But others also hope that it could help to reduce the cost of weight loss drugs in general. In its initial approval announcement, Eli Lilly said it would set the market price for Zepbound at roughly $1,060 per month—which is 20 percent lower than the $1,349 monthly price tag for Wegovy, according to Fortune.
For some insurance plans, the drug's price could drop as low as $25 per month. And those whose insurance doesn't cover the medications might also qualify for an assistance program from the company that slashes the cost in half to $550 per month.
"Today opens another chapter for adults living with obesity who have been looking for a new treatment option like Zepbound," Rhonda Pacheco, vice president of Eli Lilly's diabetes and obesity in the U.S., said in the company's press release. "The availability of Zepbound in U.S. pharmacies is the first step, but we have to work hand-in-hand with employers, government, and healthcare industry partners to remove barriers and make Zepbound available to those who need it."
Studies have found Zepbound to be highly effective—but it has some potential side effects.
In addition to hopefully boosting availability, Zepbound has also been proven to be an effective option for losing weight. Clinical trials found that patients taking higher dosages of the drug saw 20 percent more average weight loss over 72 weeks, placing it higher than its competitors, CNN reports.
However, patients prescribed the drugs might also face some side effects. The FDA listed gastrointestinal issues such as "nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal (stomach) discomfort and pain" as the most common. The manufacturer also includes warnings for other potentially serious side effects on Zepbound's label, including pancreatitis, gallbladder problems, low blood sugar, potential vision problems for people with type 2 diabetes, kidney problems, and depression or suicidal thoughts.
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