A new treatment more effective than ‘miracle’ weight loss drugs Ozempic and Wegovy has been approved for use in England and Wales to help manage type 2 diabetes amid ‘serious’ concerns over supply issues.
Tirzepatide, under the brand name Mounjaro, will be available on the NHS from early 2024, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Ozempic has been a gamechanger in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, a disease in which patients are unable to sufficiently regulate blood sugar levels.
However, the acting drug in the treatments, semaglutide, has also been proven to aid significant weight loss, causing many to use the drug for non-medicinal purposes.
Wegovy, which is used to help manage diabetes and other disorders through weight management, was recently announced for use in the UK as part of a ‘limited launch’.
Like Ozempic and Wegovy, Mounjaro works by mimicking a hormone, GLP-1 , which prompts the body to produce more insulin, helping to lower blood sugar and decrease glucose produced by the liver.
GLP-1 also reduces the rate at which the stomach empties, making users feel fuller for longer – which when combined with lower blood sugar levels, can lead to weight loss.
However, unlike semaglutide, the new drug also activates a second receptor in the body that triggers insulin production – glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) receptors.
A 40-week trial found tirzepatide, combining the two hormone analogues, was more effective than semaglutide at reducing average blood glucose levels.
Nice has recommended Mounjaro be prescribed as an alternative to other GLP-1 analogues in adults with type 2 diabetes who have a BMI of 35 or more and have additional psychological or medical complications. The drug is administered via weekly injections.
Nice noted concerns over the supply of Ozempic and Wegovy, but was not able to say whether the approval of Mounjaro would ease the issue.
‘We are seriously concerned about the ongoing shortages of GLP-1 medications which are having serious implications for many people with type 2 diabetes,’ said the organisation.
‘It is currently unclear what implications the approval of tirzepatide will have on the shortages. We are continuing to speak with the Department of Health and Social Care about the need for this issue to be resolved as a matter of urgency.
‘We welcomed the government’s guidance to restrict off-label prescriptions of GLP-1 medications while there is an ongoing shortage impacting people with type 2 diabetes, however we will need to see new guidance issued to ensure that tirzepatide can be prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes who meet the criteria.’
It also highlighted a number of side effects associated with the drug, including feeling sick, indigestion, constipation and diarrhoea, while less common side effects are pancreatitis and gallstones.
Nice added that it expected the drug would be made available in Northern Ireland, but approval for its use in Scotland was still in the hands of the Scottish Medicines Consortium and had yet to be confirmed.
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