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What Type of Drug is Tirzepatide?

Read our guide about Tirzepatide and learn more about how it could help type 2 diabetes and weight management patients.
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There are new breakthroughs in medicine all the time and weight loss medication is one of the areas that has seen big changes in recent years.

With Saxenda being well established in the market and Wegovy making its big debut in the UK recently many of us have been wondering — what comes next?

Well, we’ve been keeping our eyes peeled for new developments in the market that could be the next big thing in weight management treatment and an ingredient called Tirzepatide has certainly piqued our interest.

Developed by medication manufacturer Eli Lilly, Tirzepatide is a type 2 diabetes medicine that may go through the licensing process to be used as a weight management treatment very soon.

If it follows in the footsteps of Saxenda and Wegovy, Tirzepatide could be licensed within the next few years, so let’s learn more about it together.

What is Tirzepatide?

Tirzepatide is a type of medication known as a dual agonist and at the moment it’s used to treat patients with type 2 diabetes.

It’s designed to help patients manage their blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin production and working with other hormones affecting the digestive system.

Tirzepatide is the active ingredient in a medication called Mounjaro, which patients inject once a week.

This type of treatment is similar to medications like Wegovy and Saxenda, which are also administered by self-injection.

Although Wegovy and Saxenda are used for weight loss, they’re also used for type 2 diabetes, under the names Ozempic and Victoza, respectively.

Ozempic and Victoza were licensed for diabetes before the same active ingredients were also licensed for weight loss, and as Tirzepatide has now been licensed for diabetes in the US we may see it licensed for weight loss in future too.

Is Tirzepatide a GLP-1 receptor agonist?

Tirzepatide is a GLP-1 receptor agonist, which is a group of medications used to treat type 2 diabetes and weight loss.

GLP-1 receptor agonists stimulate the production of insulin in your pancreas and slow down the emptying of your stomach contents.

These two actions together help to reduce your appetite and keep you feeling fuller for longer.

The way these medications act helps to reduce the blood sugar levels of diabetes patients and helps those undergoing weight loss treatments reduce their food intake.

Other GLP-1 receptor agonist medications include Semaglutide and Liraglutide, which you may know better as the weight loss treatments Wegovy and Saxenda.

These medications all work in the same way, which is why they’re listed under the same group of medications — GLP-1 agonists.

Another example of this type of grouping you may know is medications that work as antihistamines.

Many hay fever medications are antihistamines, so they all help to reduce allergy symptoms in the same way, it’s the same with GLP-1 RA’s.

Is Tirzepatide a GIP receptor agonist?

Yes, Tirzepatide is also a GIP receptor agonist.

This means that it works on your GIP receptors, which work alongside your GLP-1 receptors to regulate your digestive system.

GIP agonists work in a few different ways, for example, they increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin, which is ideal for type 2 diabetes patients, whose insulin needs a little helping hand.

It also helps to reduce your production of stomach acid, meaning that your food will be broken down more slowly in the stomach. This could help with weight loss as your food will be digested more slowly, leaving you feeling fuller for longer.

At the moment, Tirzepatide is the only GIP receptor agonist on the market, but we may find that others become available as research into treatment for type 2 diabetes and obesity continues.

What is a dual agonist?

Tirzepatide is sometimes referred to as a dual agonist, which means that it works as both a GLP-1 receptor agonist and a GIP receptor agonist.

At the moment, it’s the only medication that falls into this category, but we may see more of them developed in future as the demand for this type of medication grows.

Dual agonists combine the benefits of both types of treatments, working as a complete package when it comes to blood sugar and weight management.

One of the ways GLP-1 and GIP receptor agonists complement each other is that GLP-1s stimulate the production of insulin in your pancreas while GIP agonists increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin.

When you have diabetes it means that your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or that the insulin it does produce isn’t as effective as it should be, this leads to high blood sugar levels, so the impact a dual agonist can have is clear.

As Tirzepatide is the only GIP receptor agonist on the market right now, it is naturally the only dual GIP and GLP-1 agonist available too.

It may not be the only one forever, though, so we’ll keep our eyes on the market and see what comes next.

How does Tirzepatide aid weight loss?

Tirzepatide isn’t licensed for weight loss in the UK or the US, so it’s hard for us to say at this point whether it will work as a weight management treatment.

However, we do know that it works as a GLP-1 receptor agonist, and the results weight loss patients have seen while taking this type of medication are well established.

According to the manufacturer’s website for Mounjaro, this treatment will help to reduce food intake and slow down the emptying of your stomach contents. These effects are consistent with treatments like Wegovy and Saxenda and should help patients to stick to a calorie-controlled diet.

Over time, consistently reducing your calorie intake will help you to lose weight, so finding it easier to stick to your diet will be a big bonus for patients taking Tirzepatide.

We don’t know how effective Tirzepatide may be at helping weight loss patients achieve this goal, but if it’s licensed for this purpose in future we’ll be sure to find some interesting data to share.

What is Mounjaro?

Mounjaro is the brand name of Tirzepatide injections when it is used as a type 2 diabetes treatment.

At the moment, Mounjaro is only licensed in the US and it’s only licensed for diabetes, but that may change in future if Tirzepatide follows the same licensing pattern as other GLP-1 receptor agonists.

To put things into perspective, Mounjaro is the name for Tirzepatide in the same way that Saxenda and Victoza are brand names for Liraglutide.

Victoza is the name for Liraglutide when it’s used for diabetes and Saxenda is the name for the same active ingredient when it’s used as a weight loss treatment.

If Mounjaro is licensed for diabetes in the UK it will probably be under the name Mounjaro, but if it’s ever licensed for weight loss it will probably be named something else.

Again, this is consistent with similar medications, and this type of naming helps patients to make sure that they’re taking the correct dosage and following the correct guidelines for the treatment they need.

Can I take Mounjaro for weight loss?

As we’ve mentioned earlier, Mounjaro isn’t licensed for weight loss in the US or the UK, so it should only be used for type 2 diabetes.

Mounjaro and Tirzepatide aren’t licensed or available in the UK yet so you won’t be able to get it prescribed for you for any purpose right now.

If Tirzepatide comes to the UK in the future, it will probably be as Mounjaro to start with and will only be licensed for type 2 diabetes.

However, there is a chance that some prescribers may be happy to prescribe Tirzepatide off-label for weight loss in some suitable patients.

Off-label prescribing is perfectly legal and above board and it allows prescribers to give patients medication that could help them even if it isn’t prescribed for their specific condition.

We can never guarantee that a prescriber would be happy to provide a medication off-label — they will need to be very familiar with the medication they intend to prescribe and have a good understanding of the patient and their medical history.

With this in mind, it’s hard for us to say whether Tirzepatide will be a viable option for weight management patients in the future, but when we know more we’ll keep you updated.

Who should take Tirzepatide?

Tirzepatide is currently only available in the US and at the moment it will only be provided to patients who have type 2 diabetes.

As Mounjaro, it’s designed to help patients who are at risk of the health complications of high blood sugar to lower their levels.

In time, Mounjaro may also be licensed in the UK and then type 2 diabetes patients on this side of the pond could be suitable for treatment too.

Depending on how the licensing of Tirzepatide goes in future it may also be suitable for patients undergoing weight management treatment, in which case it will likely be available in the US before the UK.

It’s difficult for our team to say exactly who would be suitable for treatment with Tirzepatide, as we don’t have any of the information or prescriber guidelines they would need to make an informed decision.

As this medication develops and becomes more readily available we’ll keep you updated about any new information that comes to light, including guidelines for suitable patients.

What are the benefits of taking Tirzepatide?

Tirzepatide has a number of benefits for type 2 diabetes patients and, as we’ve previously discussed, some of them could be beneficial for weight loss patients too.

It helps to stimulate insulin production in your pancreas while also increasing insulin sensitivity, which is ideal for diabetes patients.

It also helps to reduce your appetite and slow down gastric emptying, essentially keeping you fuller for longer.

These effects will help both diabetes and weight management patients to stick to a lower-calorie diet, resulting in weight loss when continued over time.

Are there any side effects?

All medications have the potential to cause side effects and Tirzepatide is no different.

At the moment we don’t have a complete list of side effects, which is usually made public when a medication has gone through the licensing process.

What we do know is that there are seven common side effects of Tirzepatide that have been discovered by Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Mounjaro.

These side effects are:

  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Being sick (vomiting)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Indigestion
  • Decreased appetite
  • Stomach or abdominal pain

As you can see, the most common side effects of Tirzepatide all affect your digestive system in some way.

This is consistent with the symptoms of other GLP-1 receptor agonists, so it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

If these side effects mirror those of Semaglutide and Liraglutide as much as they seem to do, they will probably be most common during the first weeks of your treatment before subsiding as your body gets used to your medication.

When will Tirzepatide be available in the UK?

We don’t know when or if Tirzepatide will be licensed in the UK for type 2 diabetes or weight loss.

This isn’t unusual, the governing bodies that license medications in the UK will take their time to make sure that a medication is safe and works as intended before they allow it into the market.

Naturally, this type of in-depth process takes time and only those directly involved in the proceedings will really know what’s happening, so we won’t be able to take a guess at a timeframe ourselves.

However, when news reaches us about any new licensing information that could lead to Tirzepatide being available in the UK we’ll let our patients know right away.

Now we all know a lot more about Tirzepatide and what type of medication it is, although it’s important to note that there’s always more to learn!

If you’d like to learn more about Tirzepatide, other weight management medications, or even just some tips and tricks to help you along your weight loss journey, you’re in the right place.

Here are some of our most popular articles and guides about weight management, from medicines to meal ideas and exercise motivation.

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Laura Henderson

Laura Henderson

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