Weight Loss Medications

Updated: 5/25/24By Jason Richardson, MD

Weight Loss Medications

Weight loss medications can be used in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity to help with weight loss.


Tirzepatide is a medication that was approved for the treatment of diabetes in 2022, and for weight loss in 2023. It is sold under the brand names Mounjaro® (for diabetes) and Zepbound® (for weight loss). 

Tirzepatide may be to be used with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity for patients age 18 years and older who are obese (BMI of 30 or greater) or overweight (BMI of 27 or greater) and also have at least one weight-related condition, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes mellitus, obstructive sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, or high blood fats. 

Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) are blood sugar regulation hormones found in humans. Tirzepatide stimulates GIP and GLP-1 receptors in the body. This dual behavior has been shown to produce greater blood sugar reductions compared to other weight loss medications that only stimulate GLP-1 receptors.

In a one trial, adults were split into groups to receive administration various does of tirzepatide or placebo every week for 72 weeks. The average percentage of weight reduction at the end of the trial was around 15% with 5-mg doses, around 20% with 10-mg doses, and around 21% with 15-mg doses. Average weight reduction in the placebo group was around 3%.

Tirzepatide is commonly administered via weekly injection under the skin. Use of tirzepatide has risks. In one trial, the common side effects included nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. The chance of side effects increased with the dosage amount. Likewise, the number of patients who discontinued treatment also increased with the dosage, with patients taking 5 mg having a 5% rate of discontinuation vs 25% for patients on 15 mg. Other common side effects may include constipation, abdominal pain, indigestion, injection site reactions, fatigue, allergic reactions, belching, hair loss, heartburn, and low blood sugar. Birth control pills may not work as well while using tirzepatide. There are also other less common side effects, not limited to pancreas inflammation, kidney problems, gallbladder problems, and vision changes.

Tirzepatide should not be used in people with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2. Tirzepatide may cause tumors in the thyroid, including cancer. Watch for possible symptoms, such as swelling in the neck, hoarseness, shortness of breath, or difficulty swallowing. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any symptoms or issues.

For the manufacturers' usage instructions click here

Zepbound® and Mounjaro® were registered trademarks owned or licensed by Eli Lilly and Company, its subsidiaries, or affiliates as of this writing on 5/25/24.

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