In a study from Yale and elsewhere, scientists found a drug recently approved to treat type 2 diabetes is also extremely effective at reducing obesity.
The drug, called tirzepatide, works on two naturally-occurring hormones that help control blood sugar and are involved in sending fullness signals from the gut to the brain.
Researchers noticed that people who took the drug for their diabetes also lost weight.
In the study, the team focused on people who have obesity without diabetes and found even more weight loss.
They found those taking the highest of three studied doses lost as much as 21% of their body weight—as many as 50-60 pounds in some cases.
Another obesity treatment approved last year called semaglutide, from Novo Nordisk, provides an average of up to about 15% weight loss.
Previous generations of diet drugs cut only about 5% of the weight and many carried prohibitive side effects.
The team found for most of the trial participants, side effects from tirzepatide were not serious.
About 15% of participants who received the active drug dropped out of the 72-week trial, about a third because of gut side effects.
Meanwhile, 26% of trial volunteers who received a placebo dropped out.
On May 13, the Food and Drug Administration approved tirzepatide, under the trade name Mounjaro, for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
Researchers say weight loss of 15% to more than 20% also has the potential to change the way doctors treat diabetes from focusing on reducing blood sugar to aiming for total remission.
A previous study of tirzepatide in diabetes showed that half the participants who were early in the course of their diabetes went into remission while taking the drug.
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The research is published in the New England Journal of Medicine and was conducted by Dr. Robert Gabbay et al.
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