A diabetes drug has been authorised to help obese and overweight adults with weight management and loss, according to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Such patients with weight-related health problems – such as prediabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart problems – could have access to Tirzepatide if it receives further approval from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).
The weight loss jab, also known as Mounjaro, was given the green light for NHS use in September by Nice as an option for patients with type 2 diabetes who do not have the condition under control.
Of its use for weight management, Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Although further approvals are needed to use this in the NHS, Mounjaro has the potential to help thousands of people living with obesity and support those suffering from weight-related illnesses – if used alongside diet and physical activity.
“Tackling obesity could help cut waiting lists and save the NHS billions of pounds.”
The active ingredient in the drug works by making a patient feel full and less hungry, and making them experience fewer food cravings.
The MHRA’s authorisation is based on the results of two clinical trials, which showed that patients who were treated with Tirzepatide “had a significant weight loss over time compared to patients who took a placebo”.
The agency warned the drug may affect how well the contraceptive pill works in obese or overweight female patients.
It also listed potential side effects of the medicine, including nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting – which usually goes away over time – and constipation.
Low blood sugar is also “very common” in patients with diabetes, the agency added.
Julian Beach, MHRA interim executive director, healthcare quality and access, said: “We have prioritised rapid assessment of this new indication for Mounjaro, given the public health importance of access to new medicines to help tackle obesity.
“We have drawn on advice from the independent Commission on Human Medicines in coming to our decision, and as with all products, will keep the safety of Mounjaro under close review.”
The MHRA said it will keep the safety and effectiveness of Mounjaro under close review.
In September, semaglutide, sold under the brand name Wegovy, was launched in the UK to help tackle obesity.
The drug was approved for NHS use by Nice earlier this year and is now available to patients via specialist services.