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Tirzepatide for Weight Loss: What You Need to Know

Tirzepatide for Weight Loss: What You Need to Know
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

Medically reviewed by

Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 5 min read

Tirzepatide is an injection medication used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Approved by the FDA in 2022, Tirzepatide or Mounjaro, is a newer drug. But like many other medications for type 2 diabetes, Tirzepatide can also cause weight loss.

Why? Tirzepatide tells your body that it’s full, so you stop eating or eat less. Tirzepatide causes food to move through your system more slowly. According to Good RX, Tirzepatide is a once-weekly injection. Once it is taken, Tirzepatide works on insulin levels in the body, affects blood sugar, and manipulates hunger hormones. Tirzepatide is being reviewed by the FDA as a viable treatment for obesity and overweight. This drug has received a Fast Track designation, according to a news release

Fast Track approval means that the process of approving the drug for weight loss will be quicker and the drug will not have to be reviewed extensively to treat conditions that are deemed medically necessary. Tirzepatide is essentially Mounjaro.

While Tirzepatide is prescribed for type 2 diabetes, many healthcare providers are prescribing it off-label for weight loss in “people without diabetes.” Of course, Tirzepatide must be accompanied by a healthy diet and exercise for it to be effective as a weight loss aid. Tirzepatide is now considered a viable dual treatment option. 

Side effects

While Tirzepatide is receiving consideration as a weight loss drug, it also has side effects. This drug works a lot like other drugs containing Semaglutide, including Ozempic and Wegovy. Nausea and vomiting are the two most common side effects of this drug. As many as 18 percent of study participants reported this side effect when taking Tirzepatide. 

Patients tend to start noticing this side effect after beginning this medication. You may also experience these symptoms when your doctor increases your dosage. You can lessen your chances of experiencing these side effects if your doctor starts you on a low dosage of this medication. Another potential side effect of this medication is diarrhea. 

Decreased appetite is another side effect of this medication. If you are taking this drug for diabetes, the side effect of weight loss may be unexpected. If weight loss is your goal while taking Tirzepatide, this side effect may be a welcome surprise. If you’d like to speed up weight loss, your doctor may be able to set up a meal plan that helps you achieve your weight loss goals. Inform your doctor of any changes in your appetite. He or she may make adjustments to your medication, as necessary.

If your appetite is decreased while on this medication, it is important to eat foods that contain the nutrients necessary to maintain a healthy body. It can also be hard to get the nutrients you need when you are not hungry and don’t feel like eating. If your doctor is developing a meal plan for you, tell him or her if Tirzepatide has affected your appetite. He or she may suggest making modifications to your diet. 

Other side effects of Tirzepatide include:

  • Gallbladder disease. Gallbladder disease is rare with this medication. However, it is a potential side effect. This painful condition produces vomiting, stomach pain, and nausea. It can also produce gallstones and inflammation of the gallbladder. 

  • Pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas swells. Pancreatitis causes vomiting, stomach pain, and jaundice. Jaundice is a condition where the skin becomes yellow. 

  • Low blood sugar. It is not likely that you will develop hypoglycemia or low blood sugar by itself. It can be a result of taking Tirzepatide.

Studies on Tirzepatide have yielded notable results. Participants in a study on Tirzepatide found that they lost roughly 16 percent of their body weight, which evened out to a total weight loss of 35 pounds. 

Dieticians and obesity professionals are especially excited about Tirzepatide. A clinical trial conducted in 2022 found that participants lost up to 22.5 percent of their overall body weight when taking this medication. You won’t see results from taking Tirzepatide for a little while. According to experts, it can take weeks or months for the medication to have a full effect on you, according to Medical News Today

What happens if you miss a dose? If you miss a dose, take Tirzepatide as soon as you remember. You can take it as many as four days late. If more than four days have passed, skip that dose, and take your next scheduled dose. Experts recommend waiting at least three days between doses. Tirzepatide is meant to be taken long term.   

But how does Tirzepatide cause weight loss? Tirzepatide slows your digestion, so food moves through your system slowly. As a result of this, food remains in your stomach for a longer period of time, making you feel full. Because of this, you may not feel like eating. Additionally, you may not eat as much as you normally would.     

Weight loss with Tirzepatide is far more significant than it is with other diabetes drugs that have the side effect of weight loss. According to PubMed, participants in a recent study found that those taking five milligrams, 10 milligrams, and 15 milligrams of this medication saw significant weight loss and were able to maintain this weight loss long-term. The study also found that the mean body weight of participants was 104.8 kilograms, and the average body mass index or BMI was 38. 

It is also important to note that 94.5 percent of participants had a BMI of 30 or above. At week 72 of this study, participants had lost about five percent of their overall body weight. In addition to facilitating weight loss, Tirzepatide lowers blood sugar and can reduce glycemic levels. While some doctors will prescribe Tirzepatide off-label for weight loss, it is not approved for that purpose alone. 

According to experts, Tirzepatide is expected to make a lasting impression on the weight loss community. In fact, these experts say that people will spend billions of dollars on this drug for weight loss alone. Because of this, Tirzepatide is likely to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for weight loss this year.

High doses of this drug have helped many people lose as much as 52 pounds. That accounts for 22.5 percent of an individual’s overall body weight. Although Tirzepatide is in the process of receiving FDA approval, it is not likely that everyone will qualify for the injection medication.

Some insurance companies will not cover this drug. Your insurance company may not offer coverage for this medication if you intend to use it for weight loss. The reason for this is that Tirzepatide or Mounjaro is not FDA-approved for weight loss, and most insurance companies will not pay for it, if it is taken for this reason. Your insurance is unlikely to cover it for weight loss, even if your doctor prescribes it off-label.

People with diabetes are likely to have this drug covered, especially when it is administered in low doses. Your insurance coverage for this medication will ultimately depend upon your specific insurance plan and drug coverage. Mounjaro’s manufacturer offers customers a savings card of $25.00 for up to a 30-day supply of this medication. However, this savings card is only available to patients with a documented case of type 2 diabetes. 

Those who have government-issued insurance, such as Medicare and Medicaid, are not eligible for the $25 savings card. Your copay for Tirzepatide will also depend on your deductible and other factors, such as drug tiers. Tier 3 and tier 4 coverage is typically more expensive, often requiring higher copays. Bear in mind that this drug may not be covered if you haven’t yet met your deductible for the year. 

But what does it take to get the savings card for Tirzepatide? Eli Lilly, Mounjaro’s manufacturer, has made it easy to get the savings card for this medication. You can get the savings card on Mounjaro’s website, or you can call Eli Lilly at 1-844-805-5807. You can use the savings card “until December 31, 2023.”  You can use the savings card for 24 months. 

It’s important to remember that Tirzepatide is not for everyone. According to experts, you should not take this drug if you have Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2).  You should be aware of other possible risks of taking this medication. Mounjaro has been known to cause cancer in certain animals. However, experts don’t know if this is the case with humans. If thyroid cancer develops, it can be lethal, if left untreated. 

 Contact your doctor if you develop a neck mass, have trouble swallowing or breathing, or if you develop hoarseness. Contact your doctor if these symptoms do not go away. Do not take Tirzepatide if you have a family history of thyroid cancer. Do not use this medication if you have had thyroid cancer. 

 You should get regular blood work and thyroid ultrasounds, if you take this medication. You should also tell your doctor if you’ve ever had pancreatitis or if you have bowel or stomach problems.

  

 

15 Sources

Nu Image Medical has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.