Clinical trial results published Thursday by Eli Lilly show that patients who took the weight-loss drug tirzepatide, Eli Lilly's, lost an average of 34 pounds or 16% their body weight.
Eli Lilly expects to receive regulatory approval as soon as this year. The FDA approved the use of tirzepatide to treat Type 2 diabetes in 2013. However, it is not yet cleared for weight-loss.
David Ricks, CEO of Eli Lilly, said on CNBC’s “Squawk box” that the approval will allow "many more people" to benefit from the tirzepatide. He also added that it sets "a new bar for people with diabetes and weight loss."
These data are being released as companies attempt to capitalize on the increased demand from consumers for weight loss treatment. Some experts have criticised the increasing use of these drugs as an extension of the diet culture.
Phase three of the trial involved 938 overweight adults with Type 2 diabetes. After 72 weeks, patients who received a 10 mg version of the injection lost an average of 30 pounds. Patients who received a 15 mg version lost an average 34 pounds.
The average weight loss for patients in the placebo group, who did not get the injection, was 7 pounds.
Around 86% of the patients who took the tirzepatide in the trial lost at least 5% body weight compared to about 30% of the placebo group.
A pharmacist displays Mounjaro by Lilly, an injection drug that treats type 2 diabetes. The box was displayed at Rock Canyon Pharmacy, Provo, Utah on May 29, 2023.
Jeff Emmick said that the average weight loss in this trial was "unprecedented in phase 3 trials of obesity, overweight, and type 2 diabetics," in a press release.
Tirzepatide reduced A1C levels, which measure the average blood sugar in the body over the last three months. A1C levels that are elevated are linked to a greater risk of complications from diabetes.
Eli Lilly has said that it will continue to track the results of this trial. The company will also present its findings at a conference of the American Diabetes Association in June, and submit them to a peer reviewed journal.
In a press release, Dr. Robert Gabbay said that the weight loss in the trial was "substantial" and "highly clinically significant."
Gabbay stated that the weight loss reported was lower than the results of a previous trial on tirzepatide. That study examined the drug among patients with obesity, but not diabetes. In the 2022 trial, patients who took tirzepatide lost up to 22,5% of their weight.
Gabbay, however, said that the weight loss difference between the non-diabetes and the new trial was consistent with research on other weight loss medications.
CNBC's global health coverage is updated regularly.
In recent years, drugs like Ozempic (a rival drug from Novo Nordisk) and Wegovy (a rival drug from Novo Nordisk) have been hailed as "miracles" for weight loss.
According to reports, celebrities from Hollywood and social media influencers like Elon Musk (billionaire tech mogul) have used popular injections for weight loss.
Experts say that the drugs may perpetuate a dangerous culture of diets and thinness, which idealizes weight-loss.
Some patients stop taking the drug and complain of a difficult-to-control weight gain.
Tirzepatide mimics two hormones that are naturally produced in the gut, called GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide) and GIP. The hormones send signals to the brain that a person has had enough food, and suppress their appetite.
Ozempic & Wegovy are only GLP-1 agonists. Ozempic was given to patients in a clinical trial conducted in 2021. Patients lost almost 15% of their weight.
Eli Lilly registered a clinical trial earlier this month that pits tirzepatide and Wegovy against each other in 700 obese or overweight patients with weight-related conditions. The company anticipates completing the study by 2025.