Millions of diabetics could see life-changing results from an ‘incredible’ new drug, researchers suggested today.
Tirzepatide works by mimicking hormones that help both control blood sugar and suppress appetite, helping people shed pounds.
It was already shown to be more effective than other similar medicines, including ones dished out on the NHS.
But fresh data, set to be presented at a medical conference, will reveal that it also works up to 12 weeks quicker.
Scientists involved in the analysis said the once-a-week jab was producing results ‘beyond anything else we have available right now’.
Tirzepatide mimics hormones in the body which help people feel full and satisfied after a meal.
These are often at low levels in obese patients, who tend to make up the majority of Type 2 diabetics.
As well as helping people feel full, the drug helps bring diabetes under control by helping the body avoid sugar crashes, help removes excess sugar from the body and stops the liver from making and releasing too much sugar.
Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to blindness and leave patients needing their limbs amputated or in a coma.
Scientists have hailed ‘incredible’ weight loss and diabetes management results from a clinical trial of tirzepatide, sold under the brand name Mounjaro
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high.
It can cause symptoms like excessive thirst, needing to pee a lot and tiredness. It can also increase your risk of getting serious problems with your eyes, heart and nerves.
It’s a lifelong condition that can affect your everyday life. You may need to change your diet, take medicines and have regular check-ups.
It’s caused by problems with a chemical in the body (hormone) called insulin. It’s often linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes.
As obesity rates have spiralled over the past few decades, so has type 2 diabetes.
Figures now suggest that roughly 5million Britons have the condition, as well as 29million people in the US.
Drugs now exist to fight the condition, but the new analysis suggests tirzepatide, sold under the brand name Mounjaro and made by US pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, could offer better and faster improvements for sufferers.
The new data came from two trials, which compared a 5mg, 10mg or 15mg dose to two different existing medications.
Tirzepatide doses increased by 2.5 mg every four weeks until the required strength was reached and then maintained for the duration of the nearly year-long trials.
One trial involved almost 1,500 people with type 2 diabetes.
Participants in this trial were either randomly assigned to receive one of the three differing doses of tirzepatide once a week or a daily insulin injection.
The other trial compared the three tirzepatide doses to another weekly weight-loss and diabetes jab called semaglutide. It involved 1,800 participants.
Tirzepatide recipients reached a key blood sugar control milestone, which is having a haemoglobin A1c level of less than 7 per cent, on average four weeks faster than those on semaglutide.
It also outperformed the daily insulin jabs, with participants on tirzepatide recording a haemoglobin A1c level of less than 6.5 per cent 12 weeks sooner.
Similar findings were also recorded for weight loss in the semaglutide trial.
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Patients can inject themselves with semaglutide, which works by hijacking the brain to suppress appetite and slash calorie intake.
Overweight and obese participants given the regular doses saw their odds of suffering the condition fall by up to 61 per cent.
The drug, called Wegovy, has been approved for use in England after it was shown to help patients lose an average of 15 per cent of their body weight, equal to 2st 7lb.
Around 4.5million people are living with type 2 diabetes in England, which costs the NHS more than £10billion a year.
Researchers carried out a new analysis of data from two previous trials of semaglutide to assess its impact on the condition.
Study leader Dr Timothy Garvey said the average weight loss of 15 per cent was ‘sufficient to treat or prevent a broad array of obesity complications that impair health and quality of life’. He added that this effect ‘is a game changer in obesity medicine’.
People on the 10mg and 15mg tirzepatide doses lost 5 per cent of their total weight after 12 weeks.
This was half the time compared to participants semaglutide.
Lead author of the analysis, Dr Adie Viljoen a consultant metabolic physician and chemical pathologist from East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, said tirzepatide was producing ‘incredible’ results.
‘The speed we are seeing in glucose-lowering and weight loss is beyond anything else we have available right now,’ he said.
‘It may put adults with type 2 diabetes in a better position for preventing long-term complications.
‘Even a modest weight loss of 5 per cent of initial body weight is associated with clinically significant improvements in weight-related health issues for many individuals.
‘For people with type 2 diabetes to be able to achieve these improvements in health in around half the time is pretty incredible.’
However, he added it was important to remember the injection was not a silver bullet, and it should be used alongside diet and exercise.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not make enough insulin, or it the insulin it makes doesn’t work properly leading to high blood sugar levels.
It can lead to serious health problems like heart disease, increased stroke risk, kidney problems, eye diseases and nerve damage.
Unlike type 1 diabetes, which is genetic, type 2 diabetes is mainly driven by obesity. It is also reversible with a healthy lifestyle.
Tirzepatide mimics two hormones in the body, one called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, and glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide, or GIP.
GLP-1 receptor agonists have been in use for about a decade and have transformed type 2 diabetes treatment.
Participants in clinical trials have reported experiencing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea as side effects from taking tirzepatide, though these were most frequently reported when dosages were increased.
The drug is currently approved as a prescription diabetes medication in the US though it has been speculated Eli Lilly will seek approval for its use as a weight loss drug.
It reportedly costs about £843 ($975) for a four-week course but is not currently approved for use in the UK.
The authors of the latest analysis noted several limitations of their study, such as the clinical trials not being specifically designed to compare the rate of glycaemic control and weight loss between the drugs, and therefore the results should be interpreted with caution.
The analysis, funded by Eli Lilly, will be presented at European Association for the Study of Diabetes’ conference in Sweden from September 19 to 23.