Tirzepatide, a new drug that could have far-reaching impact — and billions in sales — is likely to be approved for weight loss by the Food and Drug Administration in 2023.
The drug, made by U.S. pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, is already approved by the FDA to treat Type 2 diabetes. However, at higher doses it has been proven to be highly effective for weight loss by reducing food intake and appetite and improving how the body breaks down sugar and fat.
A clinical trial found that a high dose of tirzepatide helped patients lose about 52 pounds, or an average of 22.5% of their body weight. Tirzepatide, when approved by the FDA, is predicted to hit a record $48 billion in sales, Bank of America analyst Geoff Meacham told NBC News.
While the drug is expected to gain tremendous popularity for weight loss, it is unlikely most people will be able to receive the prescription medication — taken by injection in the thigh, stomach or arm — through insurance companies.
Lower doses of the drug, used to treat diabetes, are covered by most insurance companies. However, there is very minimal coverage for cases where the drugs are prescribed for obesity. Researchers estimate that tirzepatide could cost about $13,000 annually, or about $1,100 per month, NBC reports.
Tirzepatide is the latest diabetes treatment that has been known to help with weight loss.
Recently, Ozempic and Wegovy have been trending on social media after TikTok users speculated that a number of celebrities have used the drugs for weight loss, even though they don’t have diabetes or clinical obesity.
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However, Dr. Caroline Apovian, co-director of the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, warned that use of these medications strictly for weight loss is causing less availability for “underserved” diabetic patients whose lives are at risk without the drugs.
Ozempic and Wegovy are both listed as “currently on shortage” on the FDA’s website. Novo Nordisk said in a release that the shortage is caused by a recent increase in demand, as well as supply chain issues.
“The Hollywood trend is concerning,” Apovian recently told PEOPLE. “We’re not talking about stars who need to lose 10 pounds. We’re talking about people who are dying of obesity, are going to die of obesity.”
“You’re taking away from patients with diabetes,” she continued. “We have lifesaving drugs… and the United States public that really needs these drugs can’t get them.”