Diabetes drug set to be approved for weight loss could become best-selling drug in history

A drug that treats Type 2 diabetes could become the best-selling medication in history if approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat obesity.

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The drug, tirzepatide, was created by Eli Lilly and approved as a diabetes treatment last year. While studying the drug as a treatment for diabetes, researchers also found it showed impressive results in clinical trials for weight loss.

The clinical trial showed that a higher dose of the drug reduced appetite and improved the body’s ability to break down sugar and fat, leading to a 22.5% loss in body weight for patients in the study. The average weight loss for those in the study was 52 pounds.

The drug would be expensive – around $1,000 to $1,200 a month – and would likely not be paid for as a weight loss drug by most insurance companies. Annual sales of tirzepatide could hit a record $48 billion, Bank of America analyst Geoff Meacham told NBC News.

Tirzepatide, sold under the brand name Mounjaro, is covered by most insurance companies as a treatment for diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2020, nearly 42% of Americans were obese. Black Americans had the highest adult obesity level at 49.9%.

Hispanic adults had an obesity rate of 45.6%; white adults had an obesity rate of 41.4%, and Asian adults had an obesity rate of 16.1%.

The estimated annual medical cost of treating those with obesity in the U.S. was nearly $173 billion in 2019.

A second trial to test tirzepatide’s effectiveness as a weight loss treatment should be completed in April, according to Healthline.

The FDA’s move to fast-track a decision on whether to approve the drug as a weight loss treatment allows trial data to be reviewed as it is gathered.

Other diabetes medications are used for weight loss, with critics slamming the practice, saying it has caused a shortage of the drugs desperately needed to treat diabetes.

Wegovy has been used by celebrities for weight loss, according to a story from “60 Minutes.”

Semaglutide, used in the diabetes drugs Ozempic and Wegovy, was shown to produce a nearly 16 percent reduction in body mass index in both adolescents and adults in clinical trials. Semaglutide costs around $1,200 a month.

Both Ozempic and Wegovy are listed as “currently on shortage” on the FDA’s website.

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