FDA approves the active ingredient in Mounjaro to help people with obesity lose weight, named Zepbound

Studies suggest Zepbound can help people lose weight with diet and exercise.

November 8, 2023, 1:09 PM

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug Zepbound to treat obesity on Wednesday.

The drug's active ingredient is called tirzepatide. As a diabetes drug, it is sold under the brand name Mounjaro, which is manufactured by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co.

It has now been approved under the brand name Zepbound as a weight loss management treatment for people with obesity, or those who are overweight with at least one related underlying condition, such as high blood pressure.

The drug is similar to semaglutide, the active ingredient in the medications Ozempic and Wegovy -- both made by Novo Nordisk -- but works slightly differently because it targets two hormones involved in blood sugar control rather than just one.

Studies suggest it could lead to more dramatic weight loss than semaglutide.

Last month, a study found that tirzepatide helped some people with obesity or overweight lose about a quarter of their body weight -- when paired with an extensive diet and exercise program.

PHOTO: The Eli Lilly & Co. corporate headquarters are seen in Indianapolis on April 26, 2017.
The Eli Lilly & Co. corporate headquarters are seen in Indianapolis on April 26, 2017.
Darron Cummings/AP

Earlier this year, Eli Lilly released clinical trial results showing participants who were overweight or obese and had type 2 diabetes -- who took Zepbound compared to a placebo -- lost up to 15.7% of their body weight over 72 weeks of treatment.

In general, medications like Mounjaro, Ozempic, Wegovy and Saxenda, the latter of which is also made by Novo Nordisk, and several others were originally approved to treat diabetes.

However, researchers have learned over the past several years that the drugs can also lead to weight loss.

Wegovy was approved by the FDA for long-term weight management in people who are overweight or obese in 2021 while Saxenda was approved for adults in 2014 and in those aged 12 and older in 2020.

Ozempic is still only approved for diabetes, although some physicians have prescribed it as a weight loss drug.

Increasingly, obesity specialists have recognized that obesity is a metabolic condition that cannot be adequately managed with diet and exercise alone for most people.

For some people, surgery or lifelong medication management may be an appropriate way to help manage obesity.

Currently, 41.9% of the U.S. adult population is living with obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obesity raises the risk of heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer -- all of which are leading causes of preventable, premature death, the CDC said.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.