GLP-1 Agonist Drugs Show Promise for Treating More Conditions

GLP-1 agonist drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro, and Zepbound, initially used for weight loss and diabetes, are showing promise for treating various conditions beyond their original scope. Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Wegovy, along with Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro and Zepbound, are leading this trend.

Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro and Zepbound — brand names for drugs semaglutide and tirzepatide — are far and away the most famous members of a booming class of medications known as GLP-1 agonists. These medications mimic a gut hormone called GLP-1. They were initially approved to treat diabetes and, more recently, obesity, and with more and more people using the drugs, signs of other potential benefits are starting to emerge.

For one, Novo Nordisk gathered enough data to prove this and scored approval from the Food and Drug Administration last March to add cardiovascular benefits to Wegovy’s label (experts expect Zepbound will be shown to have similar heart benefits). And earlier this month Eli Lilly issued a press release notifying the world that it was eying a label expansion for Zepbound after a late-stage trial found that the drug “meaningfully improved sleep apnea symptoms,” which means the drug “has the potential to be the first pharmaceutical treatment for the underlying disease,” according to Lilly’s senior vice president for product development Jeff Emmick.

To expand on this, Eli Lilly’s weight loss drug Zepbound has shown effectiveness in reducing obstructive sleep apnea in adults with obesity, potentially becoming the first pharmaceutical treatment for this condition. The drug led to significant reductions in sleep apnea events in two studies, with participants experiencing an average weight loss of around 20%.

These findings, though not yet peer-reviewed, indicate the drug’s potential to address a major health issue beyond weight loss. Experts believe these results could influence insurance coverage for the drug, and Lilly plans to present additional details at the American Diabetes Association conference in June and submit them to the FDA later this year.

Additionally, companies like Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, Boehringer, and Zealand Pharma are exploring GLP-1 drugs as a potential treatment for fatty liver disease. As a recent Forbes article points out:

Studies also indicate the GLP-1 class could potentially help with a range of brain disorders, where they potentially help boost mood, cognitive function and alleviate symptoms for conditions including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety, areas that have long been notorious sticking points for pharmaceutical development.

Substance use disorders and addiction is another promising avenue following reports of diminished cravings among people taking GLP-1 drugs, though scientists are still working to figure out why — the drug could feasibly act on parts of the brain and nervous system as these also produce the GLP-1 hormone or have relevant hormone receptors for it — and confirm whether the medications can indeed curb addiction.

Of course, post-approval reports are crucial, as they may reveal unforeseen negative effects. Still, the weight loss market has no indication of slowing down. On the contrary, analysts estimate that the weight loss drug market could be worth at least as much as $100 billion by 2030, with Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly currently dominating it. These companies’ extensive data and label expansions set a high bar for competitors.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Drugs Like Ozempic And Mounjaro Could Treat Other Conditions — Here’s What Scientists Are Looking At,” Forbes, 04/18/24
Source: “Eli Lilly’s weight loss drug Zepbound found to reduce sleep apnea, company says,” NBC News, 04/17/24
Image by Isabella Fischer on Unsplash

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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