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New Diabetes Injection Offers Added Benefit of Weight Loss

July 25, 2022

A new medication offers an extra tool for more than 34 million Americans managing type 2 diabetes with the added benefit of weight loss. Given as a weekly injection, tirzepatide (brand name Mounjaro™) is the first in a new class of diabetes medications that lowers the patient’s blood sugar level (A1C) using a hormone combination of a glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP). It also contains a GLP-1 receptor agonist, which supports weight loss by promoting a feeling of fullness and controlling appetite in the brain. “This is really impressive because many of the patients we treat with Type 2 diabetes struggle with weight too, so to have a medication that can provide both reduction in your blood glucose as well as weight loss is a win-win situation,” said Devika Umashanker, MD, medical director of medical weight loss with Hartford HealthCare. Research by the manufacturer of Mounjaro showed that participants taking the medication had slightly greater reductions in A1C – up to 2.07 percent lower – than those receiving the placebo. In addition, those taking the medication lost 15 to 20 pounds more than the placebo group. Dr. Umashanker said they are seeing patients experiencing up to 20 percent weight loss, making it comparable to the outcomes of certain bariatric surgical procedures. “For patients who don’t qualify for bariatric surgery or aren’t interested in bariatric surgery, this is an option that they may have,” she said. GIP and GLP-1 are gut hormones called incretins released in the intestines during eating. Both increase the release of insulin, with GLP-1 also reducing levels of glucagon, the hormone that prevents blood sugar from dropping too much. GIP reduces fat accumulation and acid secretion into the stomach. Because people with type 2 diabetes do not respond as strongly to incretins, this new drug activates GLP-1 and GIP receptors in the body so they will respond. It has proved effective in adults with diabetes that is inadequately controlled by diet and exercise interventions alone. Mounjaro has few side effects; the most common is nausea. Patients with diabetes may also still need to regularly check their blood sugar levels based on specific characteristics of their disease.