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NICE approves diabetes drug to treat obesity

Tirzepatide, a type-2 diabetes drug has been recommended as a treatment for obesity to help patients 'live longer and healthier lives'

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended a type-2 diabetes drug to treat obesity on the NHS. Mounjaro, also known as tirzepatide can now be prescribed for very obese patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 and at least one obesity-related condition.

According to the health regulator, this could provide doctors and patients with a better alternative to semaglutide or Wegovy, the drug currently used for weight loss.

NICE’s draft guidance said: ‘Clinical trial evidence suggests that tirzepatide with diet and exercise support is more effective compared with diet and exercise support alone and more effective than semaglutide alongside diet and exercise.’

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Clinical trials have shown that tirzepatide helped users shed 22.5% of their body weight over 72 weeks compared with 16% over 68 weeks with semaglutide. NICE also suggest that it significantly reduces the risks of developing complications such as heart attacks, kidney failure and sleep apnoea.

Responding to the publication of the draft guidance, Sir Stephen O’Rahilly, professor of clinical biochemistry and medicine and the director of the Medical Research Council Metabolic Diseases Unit at the University of Cambridge, said drugs like Mounjaro ‘will become a central plank of how we help people living with obesity to live longer and healthier lives’.

‘Given the very positive recent results of large, randomised control trials with this drug and its beneficial effects on a range of outcomes, this decision is not surprising.’

But he raised a concern over the cost of the drug. A four-week supply of pre-filled pen injections of Mounjaro ranges from £92 for the lowest dose to £122 for the highest.

Sir Stephen said: ‘This class of injectable drug is currently expensive, providing particular challenges to a taxpayer-funded health system like the NHS, especially at a time when budgets are tight.’