Ozempic and tirzepatide: understand the new wave of obesity drugs

Ozempic and tirzepatide: understand the new wave of obesity drugs

When it comes to weight loss, the most traditional method to lose weight is to perform a caloric deficit, with a varied and nutrient-rich diet, in addition to regular physical exercise. However, although the formula seems simple, it is not easy to reach the expected result.

To help people with obesity who are unable to lose weight, it has been found that some drugs initially designed for patients with diabetes can help control hunger and reduce the amount of food eaten.

In Brazil, despite not having a specific indication for overweight, Ozempic (semaglutide) is the most popular option. However, Mounjaro (tirzepatida) awaits authorization from Anvisa to enter the market and also shows good results in clinical studies carried out with obese people.

Both are promising drugs both for improving metabolic health, promoting weight loss and lowering blood sugar, and for preventing cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke.

But what is the difference between the two remedies? Endocrinologist Bruno Babetto, a specialist in metabolism, explains what you need to know about Ozempic and Mounjaro before starting any type of treatment. He check:

1. What do you need to know about obesity drugs?

“The most important thing is to be aware that none of them are magic weight loss remedies. Ozempic and Mounjaro are medicines that facilitate weight loss and help maintain healthy habits, but do not reduce the numbers on the scale on their own”, explains the specialist. He states that they should be combined with other tactics to support metabolic health, such as dietary modifications, exercise, and adequate sleep.

2. What are the differences between the two drugs?

Ozempic is a drug created primarily to control type 2 diabetes in adults, and should be used in conjunction with diet and exercise. It has been available in Brazil since 2018 and can only be marketed with a prescription. The drug is injected under the skin in the abdomen, thigh or upper arm, and the doses are weekly.

In practice, endocrinologists have prescribed semaglutide also to treat patients with overweight or obesity – a chronic disease that opens the door to many other problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and triglycerides, fatty liver, heart disease, sleep apnea. and even cancer.

The medication is not yet officially recommended in Brazil for the treatment of obesity or weight loss. But, according to Babetto, in the United States, drugs with the active substance semaglutide are already approved for use by obese or overweight people, who are not necessarily diabetics.

The doctor believes that use for the same purposes may soon be approved in Brazil, as studies show that the drug leads to a reduction of up to 15% in the body weight of overweight and obese patients over a year and a half.

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Mounjaro, with the active substance tirzepatide, is also an injectable pen created to treat type 2 diabetes. It is a newer medication and is still under analysis by Anvisa, not being authorized for use in Brazil for any condition. The drug has also shown good results for the treatment of obesity in other countries.

“When we eat, our bodies release two hormones: GIP and GLP-1. They tell the pancreas to release insulin and trigger feelings of satiety. These substances help us digest food properly and keep blood sugar stable. And that’s where tirzepatide can help, as it mimics what GIP and GLP-1 do naturally in the body, contributing to a feeling of satiety and consequent weight loss,” says Babetto.

Research has already shown that tirzepartida can cause weight loss very close to that obtained with bariatric surgery, an invasive procedure that can carry risks. For this reason, the possibility of using medication instead of the bariatric procedure is being studied.

3. Can I use Ozempic just to lose weight?

You can, but never on your own. The doctor explains that, despite not having approval from the regulatory agency to be used for weight loss, Ozempic showed positive results in research that evaluated its effectiveness in obese patients.

But the specialist points out that, before using the drug as an “off-label” alternative for weight loss, “the patient must undergo a rigorous analysis and medical follow-up”. There is an understanding among endocrinologists that the drug should be prescribed to people with a body mass index (BMI) between 28 and severe obesity.

4. What are the contraindications?

Under no circumstances should the drug be applied without medical supervision or indication, as doses and treatment time vary for each patient. Unsupervised use can have serious consequences, such as severe allergies to the components and side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and regaining lost weight.

In addition, there are contraindications for pregnant women, breastfeeding women, people with liver or pancreas problems, or with a family history of cancer such as thyroid.

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