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Health Hub

Is tirzepatide available on the NHS?

Plus, how does the medication work and how much does it cost?

Is Tirzepatide Available on the NHS? | Juniper UK

These days, you can barely turn on your TV or scroll through social media without hearing about the latest weight loss drug that's taking the industry by storm.

Undoubtedly, these pharmaceutical interventions can be life-changing for those who have previously struggled to lose weight through traditional avenues. However, amidst the cost of living crisis, it may feel challenging to justify spending money on a medication that you're not 100% sure will work for you.

One medication that may be on your radar is tirzepatide, which has recently been approved in the UK and Ireland for weight loss.

But, you may be wondering — how exactly does the weight loss drug work, how much does it cost, and is tirzepatide covered on the NHS?

To help you make an informed decision, here are all the key facts you need to know about this promising medication.

What is tirzepatide?

Sold under the brand name Mounjaro, tirzepatide is the active ingredient in a medication used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and excess weight.

Unlike some other daily weight loss medications like liraglutide, it's administered by subcutaneous injection (under the skin) once per week. Manufactured by US pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co., it's part of a class of medications called GLP-1 receptor agonists.

These mimic hormones secreted by the intestine that prompt insulin production after a meal.

In people with type 2 diabetes, this helps to regulate blood sugar levels — leading to better metabolic control and weight management.

However, even in people without diabetes, these medications reduce appetite by slowing down the amount of time it takes the stomach to empty, and sending signals of satiety to the brain [1].

Many also find that it can help eliminate some of the mental 'noise' around food, which helps them make healthier decisions, effortlessly.

Tirzepatide is also known as a 'twincretin', as it is one of the only medications that work on two incretin hormones — glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide (GIP).

This dual-action effect has been found to significantly reduce glycemic levels and improve insulin sensitivity, as well as reduce body weight by more than 20% and improve lipid metabolism [2].

Another brand name for tirzepatide is Zepbound — however, this is not currently available in the UK.

How effective is tirzepatide?

Several clinical trials suggest that when combined with a reduced-calorie diet, tirzepatide is one of the most effective treatments on the market for weight loss.

In one study, overweight and obese adults were put on either tirzepatide or a placebo for 72 weeks. 57% of participants in the 10 mg and 15 mg groups saw a reduction in body fat of 20% or more, compared to just 3% in the placebo group [3].

In another trial, tirzepatide was compared to semaglutide (the active ingredient in Wegovy).

At 40 weeks, the average reduction in body weight with tirzepatide at the maximum dose of 15 mg was 11.2 kg, compared to 5.7 kg with semaglutide [4]. Plus, tirzepatide achieved a greater reduction in weight-related health problems, such as glycated hemoglobin levels.

What are the most common side effects of tirzepatide?

Like any medication, tirzepatide comes with a range of potential side effects you should be aware of [5]. These include:

  • Stomach issues including nausea and bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Acid reflux
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Mild allergic reaction at the site of injection

Other, more serious side effects include:

  • Severe digestive issues, which may lead to kidney dysfunction
  • Pancreatitis
  • Thyroid cancer (extremely rare)
  • Mental health issues such as depression

If you notice any side effects while taking tirzepatide, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider. They will be able to work with you to find more appropriate treatment options.

What is tirzepatide approved for in the UK?

Launched in 2022, tirzepatide was originally developed for the effective treatment of type 2 diabetes.

However, in recent years, it's also been indicated in certain markets to treat obesity and overweight — likely in response to the supply issues around other GLP-1 medications.

In November last year, it was authorised by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for use in weight loss management [6].

Initially, it was not available due to large global demand — but as of early 2024, it's available in the UK as KwikPen, a convenient device that administers a month's supply of Mounjaro.

In a statement, Julian Beach, MHRA Interim Executive Director, Healthcare Quality and Access, said [6]:

“The public health importance of safe and effective treatments to help manage diabetes and obesity, which can have a significant impact on people’s health, is clear. This approval enables access to the approved Mounjaro pen in a more convenient presentation of a month’s treatment, of one dose per week.”

Douglas Twenefour, Head of Care at Diabetes UK, added:

 “We hope the MHRA’s approval of this device will help people living with type 2 diabetes, who are eligible, to access this effective treatment. Supporting people with type 2 diabetes to lose weight and manage their blood sugar levels is key to reducing the risk of diabetes-related complications, and tirzepatide (Mounjaro) expands the range of treatment options available to help people achieve this.”

Who's eligible for tirzepatide?

According to the MHRA, Mounjaro can be administered to adults with type 2 diabetes, and obese patients with a BMI (body mass index) of over 30 [7].

In some cases, it can also be prescribed to overweight patients with a BMI between 27 and 30 if they have another weight-related condition including high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, and health problems.

Can you get tirzepatide through the NHS?

If you've been Googling 'tirzepatide UK NHS' to find out whether you can access it, you're in luck.

If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or obesity, you may be able to get tirzepatide through the NHS. However, only certain people are eligible.

Here are the eligibility criteria to receive a tirzepatide prescription via the NHS in the UK, as confirmed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) [8]:

  • Triple therapy with metformin and two other oral antidiabetic drugs has proven to be not effective, tolerated or contraindicated
  • You have a body mass index (BMI) of over 35 kg/m2 or more and psychological or other medical problems associated with obesity. In people from Asian, Middle Eastern, Black African and African-Caribbean family backgrounds, a lower BMI threshold (usually reduced by 2.5 kg/m2) is used
  • Or, you have a BMI of less than 35 kg/m2 and insulin therapy would have significant occupational implications, and weight loss would benefit other obesity-related complications
  • You have a body mass index (BMI) of 35 kg/m2 or more and specific psychological or other medical problems associated with obesity

You can learn more about the regulations here.

How much is tirzepatide?

If you purchase a prescription for the tirzepatide via the NHS, you'll only need to pay around £9.95 per month.

However, as noted above, this is only available to people who meet very selective criteria. This base fee also only includes the medication, with limited guidance on how to use tirzepatide to lose weight.

Weight loss medications like Mounjaro typically work best when combined with diet and exercise.

While better glucose control helps to accelerate results, ultimately you still need to consume fewer calories than you consume in order to lose weight.

Combining medication with lifestyle change for sustainable weight loss

The good news is, even if you're not able to access tirzepatide on the NHS, there's another avenue with similar clinical and cost-effectiveness — that actually sets you up for life.

Juniper's Weight Reset Programme provides a holistic approach by pairing medically backed treatments with habits that create lasting change.

Research shows that without sufficient lifestyle change, some people gain back the weight after they stop taking weight loss medications [10].

Rather than providing you with a prescription and leaving you to your own devices, Juniper provides 1:1 coaching and nutrition support to help you achieve your weight loss goals — and actually keep it off for good.

Achieving a 15% reduction in body weight on average, our program has been recommended by NICE. So, you can trust you're receiving the gold standard in weight loss support while enjoying pharmacy prices.

Ready to kickstart your weight loss journey? Check your eligibility for the Juniper Weight Reset Programme here.

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