People suffering with obesity could be helped to lose more than 20 per cent of their body weight with a simple injection, according to researchers. The revelation follows a study into a drug which is normally used to treat patients with diabetes.
Experts have hailed the drug as a “game-changer” for those struggling to lose weight and desperate to improve their overall health. The drug in question is called tirzepatide and was the subject of a 72-week trial in the USA carried out by international medical researchers.
Their findings have now been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The report outlines how a weekly dose of the drug appears to result in significant weight loss.
The study involved splitting 2,539 people classified as either obese or overweight into four subject groups. Three of the groups were injected with either a 5mg, 10mg or 15mg dose of tirzepatide every week for the duration of the trial, while the fourth was given a placebo.
Most of the participants were white and female, with an average body weight of 104.8kg. None of them had diabetes but 94.5 per cent of those taking part were classified as clinically obese.
The UK currently has one of the worst obesity rates in the world but it is a growing problem in most western countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is responsible for causing 1.2 million deaths in Europe every year.
But the tirzapatide researchers discovered that recruiting the diabetes drug to help obese people, together with other interventions, saw participants lose up to 20 per cent of their body weight. Each of the test subjects was given lifestyle counseling and required to eat low-calorie meals.
They were also asked to complete about 150 minutes of physical exercise or activity every week. By the end of the trial, almost 82 per cent of participants had managed to correctly follow the regime.
Those who had been given the 5mg weekly dose of tirzepatide lost an average of 16.1kg (35.5lbs). People receiving the 10mg dose shed an average of 22.2kg (48.9lbs), while the participants given 15mg dropped an average weight of 23.6kg (52lbs).
In contrast, researchers said that the placebo group members lost an average weight of only 2.4kg (5.3lbs) during the 72 weeks of the trial. They added that about 57 per cent of people given the highest dose shed 20 per cent or more of body weight, compared to just 3 per cent of those given the placebo injection.
The study also found that in the group given the largest dose of tirzepatide, 91 per cent of participants lost at least 5 per cent of their body weight, in contrast to just 35 per cent in the placebo group. Until now, diet and exercise have been the focus when it comes to helping people who are obese. However, results can vary in many cases and for some it can be difficult to keep the weight off over time.
Dr Ania Jastreboff, of Yale University, who was the lead author of the research said it showed that tirzepatide could potentially be a vital new tool in tackling obesity. “We should treat obesity as we treat any chronic disease – with effective and safe approaches which target underlying disease mechanisms,” she said. “These results underscore that tirzepatide may be doing just that.”
Earlier this year, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), which regulates drugs prescribed in the UK, approved the use of semaglutide, a similar drug to tirzepatide, for certain groups of people with obesity. It also works by mimicking the human body’s hormones to make people feel full after eating. These hormones, which help people to eat less, are often found at low levels in those classified as obese.