The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved an obesity drug from the company Eli Lilly that will be a direct competitor to the wildly popular Wegovy.
The drug is called tirzepatide and will be sold under the name Zepbound. It joins a class of new medications that are transforming weight loss and obesity, a condition that affects 100 million American adults and is linked to a spectrum of diseases including diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, liver disease, kidney disease and joint pain.
Patients who used tirzepatide lost an average of 18 percent of their body weight in a drug trial when it was taken at its highest dose. That’s compared to Wegovy, manufactured by Novo Nordisk, which produced an average 15 percent weight loss.
The F.D.A. approved Zepbound for people with obesity and for those who are overweight and have one obesity-related condition like heart disease.
Tirzepatide is already approved for diabetes under the brand name Mounjaro where it competes with Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug semaglutide, known better as Ozempic. But until now Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy, which is also based on semaglutide, was the only approved drug that could safely elicit substantial weight loss in people with obesity alone.
In a news release, Dr. John Sharretts, director of the Division of Diabetes, Lipid Disorders and Obesity in the F.D.A.’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said, “In light of increasing rates of both obesity and overweight in the United States, today’s approval addresses an unmet medical need.”
“Just a few years ago it would be difficult to imagine two medications like semaglutide and tirzepatide that lead to weight loss that previously was only seen when people had bariatric surgery,” said Susan Yanovski, co-director of the office of obesity research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, referring to a surgical treatment that had been a proven effective treatment for obesity.