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Your guide to tirzepatide: Weight loss effectiveness and how to access it

Diving deep into everything you need to know about this weight loss medication.

What Is Tirzepatide? How This Medication Works for Weight Loss

From Wegovy to Rybelsys and now Mounjaro, it seems like there are new weight loss medications popping up on the scene every few months.

And, it can get pretty overwhelming to understand how each medication works, who can access it and whether it's right for you and your weight loss journey.

Tirzepatide (otherwise known by the brand name Mounjaro) is a weight loss and type 2 diabetes medication that has recently gained attention. That's because it's both a glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist medication — the first of its kind.

As the first dual GIP and GLP-1 medication, tirzepatide is showing amazing weight loss results in clinical trials and clinical practice.

So, what's the deal with tirzepatide and how does it work for weight loss and as a type 2 diabetes and obesity treatment? If you're looking to learn more about tirzepatide then we're diving deep into everything you need to know about this drug, how it works and whether Mounjaro is available in the UK.

What is tirzepatide?

Tirzepatide is a medication used to help patients with type 2 diabetes navigate glycemic control (lower blood sugar) and lose weight. Type 2 diabetes is a long-term health condition where blood sugar levels are too high due to the body not producing enough insulin or not producing insulin properly.

This can lead to other serious health problems like increased cardiovascular risk, kidney disease, and obesity. Tirzepatide works to lower blood sugar levels by increasing the production of insulin and decreasing the amount of sugar produced by the liver [1].

Like other weight loss drugs, tirzepatide also slows down how food is metabolised by the body, which in turn makes people feel fuller for longer and aids in weight loss and body weight reduction [1].

How does tirzepatide work for weight loss?

As a dual GIP and GLP-1 receptor agonist, tirzepatide works on the glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) receptor agonist and the glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist.

You may have heard the term glucagon-like peptide 1 before because that's the receptor agonist that other weight loss and diabetes medicines, like Wegovy, target.

But, what makes tirzepatide different is it's the first combination of 2 classes of medications, the GIP and GLP-1 receptor agonist which are both incretin hormones that are released after food intake.

Tirzepatide works by mimicking both of these receptor agonists, which includes processes like alerting the pancreas to stop releasing insulin after eating and sending signals to the liver to decrease glucose levels [2].

In turn, this not only helps you feel fuller for longer but it slows down digestion, and aids in glycemic control, which all lead to weight loss and weight management [2].

Clinical trials have shown that tirzepatide has beneficial effects on helping those with type 2 diabetes and obesity lose weight and aids in weight management too. A clinical trial with over 2500 people who were either obese or overweight was split into 2 treatment groups: people taking tirzepatide and people in the placebo group.

The clinical trial showed a weight loss of 15-20% of their starting body weight in 72 weeks for people taking tirzepatide. On the other hand, those in the placebo clinical trial group only showed average weight reductions of 3% [3].

What are the side effects of tirzepatide?

Like all medications, tirzepatide does have some side effects. While most side effects tend only to occur when first starting the treatment or increasing the dose, they're still important to keep in mind when deciding to take tirzepatide [4].

The most common side effects of tirzepatide are [4]:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss or decreased appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation

Aside from these common side effects, tirzepatide can also cause low blood sugar and its advised to seek medical attention if you experience any of these adverse effects [4]:

  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Anxiety, mood changes or irritability
  • Sweating
  • Slurred speech
  • Headaches
  • Fast heart rate

It's also important to note that tirzepatide does have some other potentially serious side effects and adverse events including [4]:

  • Serious allergic reaction: Allergic reactions can cause breathing difficulties and rashes, so it's important to seek urgent medical care if you experience a severe allergic reaction.
  • Thyroid cancer: In animal clinical trials and studies, tirzepatide has caused thyroid cancer and thyroid tumours, including medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). While the relevance in humans is low, this can't be completely ruled out. If you have a personal or family history of thyroid cancer, it's advised not to take this diabetes and obesity medicine.
  • Pancreatitis: Tirzepatide can cause severe abdominal pain or back pain, fevers and vomiting which requires treatment discontinuation and immediate medical attention.

How is tirzepatide administered?

Tirzepatide is administered as a weekly subcutaneous injection, meaning the pre-filled pen is injected under the skin, usually in the stomach, thigh or upper arm. Tirzepatide can also be administered with or without meals at any point in the day [5].

You should follow the dosing schedule recommended by your doctor. In general terms, a typical dosing schedule starts with a low dose and is gradually increased to 5mg once a week after 4 weeks of treatment. If you require further glycaemic control, the dosage can be increased to 10mg once a week.

It's also important to note that you can take insulin in the same area as tirzepatide but they shouldn't be given right next to one another, nor should they be mixed in the same injection [5].

Is tirzepatide prescription only?

Tirzepatide is a prescription-only medication that can be given to patients with type 2 diabetes alongside lifestyle changes like improving your diet and increasing exercise levels.

In the US, tirzepatide has received FDA approval for type 2 diabetes care and management with a prescription but not as a weight loss medication.

Is tirzepatide available in the UK?

Currently, tirzepatide isn't available in the UK either as a weight loss medication or as a diabetes care and management medication. And, considering these weight loss and diabetes care medications take some time to gain approval, we aren't yet sure if or how long approval will take in the UK — but, we'll keep you updated on the availability and cost of Mounjaro when we know more.

While tirzepatide has shown therapeutic efficacy for weight loss and treating obesity and aiding patients with type 2 diabetes as a dual GIP and GLP-1 receptor agonist, there are other licensed and approved medications that are similar to tirzepatide which are already available in the UK.

If you're looking to start your weight loss journey, it's also important to look beyond just weight loss medications and find a holistic weight management program that helps you achieve weight loss sustainably through both medication and following a balanced diet and increasing your physical activity.

Juniper's Weight Reset Programme combines the weight loss medication Wegovy to give your body a biological reset that targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and lowers your body's set point. This helps you lose your initial body weight and keep excess weight off for good.

We also know that to achieve a healthy weight and attain sustainable weight loss, you need to make sustainable lifestyle changes you can stick to for years to come.

Our clinical team of healthcare professionals, health coaches and dietitians also help you lose weight by giving you all the tools and support needed to lose weight and keep it off.

Our health coaches guide you with helpful and actionable advice to help you make the necessary lifestyle changes, like sticking to a reduced-calorie diet and increasing your physical activity levels.

Ultimately, tirzepatide is a breakthrough medication and is the first of its kind as both a dual GIP and GLP-1 medication. It is showing promising results as a weight loss medication and type 2 diabetes and obesity treatment in clinical trials.

While it isn't available in the UK yet, there are other alternatives that can help with weight reduction and weight management particularly when used holistically with other lifestyle changes.

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