New Ozempic Competitor for Weight Loss May Be Better Tolerated
Doctors say that Zepbound may be an alternative for those who can't handle semaglutide injections.
Now that it's so widely prescribed off-label to help people drop pounds, Ozempic has become somewhat synonymous with weight-loss drugs. That is despite the fact that it's actually only approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. (Its sister drug, Wegovy, is the one approved to treat obesity.) But while these two treatments, which are made by Novo Nordisk, are the first to come to mind thanks to their typically dramatic results, there are other options on the market, including a new competitor developed by Eli Lilly. Read on to find out why experts say Zepbound might be better tolerated than Ozempic.
Zepbound was recently approved for chronic weight management.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Zepbound for chronic weight management in adults with obesity and at least one weight-related condition. The active ingredient, tirzepatide, is the same active ingredient in Eli Lilly's diabetes treatment, Mounjaro.
However, unlike Ozempic and Wegovy, Eli Lilly's treatments target two hormones, the glucogen-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and the glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypetide (GIP) to reduce hunger and make patients feel fuller longer. Novo Nordisk's options only target GLP-1.
The treatment yielded significant weight loss results.
According to a Nov. 8 press release from Eli Lilly, researchers included 2,539 adult patients with obesity or who were overweight, who also had a weight-related medical problem. Participants received a 5-milligram, 10-milligram, or 15-milligram injection of Zepbound, or a placebo, once a week for 72 weeks.
All patients dieted and exercised, but those also taking Zepbound lost significantly more weight than those who received the placebo. Patients receiving 15-mg injections (the highest dose) lost an average of 48 pounds, while those receiving the 5-mg dose (the lowest dose) lost an average of 34 pounds. One in three of those taking 15 milligrams of Zepbound also lost over 58 pounds, or 25 percent of their body weight.
But beyond these impressive results, Zepbound might be easier to handle for those who've struggled with Ozempic and Wegovy, according to experts.
Zepbound sometimes has fewer side effects.
Both of Novo Nordisk's treatments have previously been criticized for potentially severe side effects, including a painful condition called gastroparesis, or stomach paralysis. In response to inquiries about patient reports, the company previously told Best Life that it values patient safety, and gastrointestinal (GI) events "are well-known side effects of the GLP-1 class."
Novo Nordisk also noted that GLP-1s can cause a delay in gastric emptying, and symptoms of this, as well as nausea and vomiting, are listed as side effects.
Despite this, multiple patients came forward to say they discontinued Ozempic and Wegovy use as a result. However, they may now have an alternative option with Zepbound.
As doctors told Prevention, patients on tirzepatide have fewer side effects than when they're on semaglutide medications.
"Some people who don't tolerate Wegovy do much better on Mounjaro/Zepbound," Steven Batash, MD, a gastroenterologist and leading physician at the Batash Endoscopic Weight Loss Center, told the outlet.
Taking Zepbound isn't "risk-free" in terms of side effects.
Similar to Ozempic and Wegovy, Zepbound predominantly causes GI-related side effects, Michael Russo, MD, board-certified bariatric surgeon at MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center, told Prevention.
According to the FDA, patients may specifically experience "nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal (stomach) discomfort and pain, injection site reactions, fatigue, hypersensitivity (allergic) reactions (typically fever and rash), burping, hair loss and gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD]."
The agency also noted that in studies of rats, Zepbound caused thyroid C-cell tumors, but it's unclear whether it would cause similar tumors in humans. Because of this, the treatment is not recommended for patients with a history of certain conditions, including medullary thyroid cancer.
Lastly, as Leana Wen, MD, emergency physician and medical analyst for CNN, explained, doctors don't know what the long-term side effects of both tirzepatide and semaglutide might be, because these are "relatively newer therapeutics."
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.