Tirzepatide: New Diabetes Treatment Shows Promising Results

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Tirzepatide: New Diabetes Treatment Shows Promising Results

Tirzepatide, which is made by the pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Company and is said to “represent a new class of medicines being studied for the treatment of type 2 diabetes,” has been shown to be effective in reducing both blood sugar levels and body weight, according to a new trial.

Tirzepatide, which is administered through a once-weekly injection, is what’s known as an “investigational dual glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist.” Previous studies have demonstrated that GIP lowers the intake of food while also increasing the expenditure of energy — actions that promote weight loss. Lilly’s development of tirzepatide was based on the premise that if GIP were to be combined with a GLP-1 receptor agonist, the result might be even greater weight loss, along with a strong effect on blood sugar levels. Thus, tirzepatide combines GIP and GLP-1 into a single molecule.

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SURPASS-4 trial

The new trial is called SURPASS-4 trial and it was Lilly’s fifth and final study regarding the effects of tirzepatide on type 2 diabetes. The trial compared tirzepatide to insulin glargine, a commonly used long-acting injectable insulin, in 2,002 patients who had both type 2 diabetes and an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. The study subjects came from around the globe: the European Union, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Israel, Taiwan, Brazil, and Argentina. The participants had an average duration of diabetes of about 12 years, a baseline A1C of 8.52% (a level above 6.5% indicates diabetes), and a baseline weight of around 200 pounds (90.2 kg).

They were all being treated with one to three medications that lower blood sugar, and more than 85% of the participants had a history of cardiovascular events. The patients who received tirzepatide began by receiving 2.5 milligrams (mg) but then were divided into three groups that got different higher doses: either 5 mg, 10 mg, or 15 mg. The other half of the patients were treated with insulin glargine. The trial lasted 52 weeks, but some participants continued tirzepatide treatments for up to one year more.

The authors of the report summed up the results by saying, “The trial achieved all of its primary and key secondary endpoints, with all three doses of tirzepatide — 5 mg, 10 mg, and 15 mg — leading to superior A1C and body weight reductions compared to insulin glargine.” The patients who received the highest dose of 15 mg reached an A1C of less than 7%, which is the recommended level for people with diabetes, while 43% achieved an A1C below 5.7%, which is a level seen in people who don’t have diabetes. The study subjects also experienced weight loss, and the higher the dose, the greater the drop. At 5 mg, the patients had a weight loss of 14 pounds (6.4 kg); at 10 mg it was nearly 20 pounds (8.9 kg), and at 15 mg it was 23 pounds (10.6 kg.).

According to John Doupis, MD, Senior Investigator for SURPASS-4, “Tirzepatide delivered impressive results in this study, providing superior A1C reductions compared to insulin glargine — as well as the addition of significant weight loss — in people with type 2 diabetes who have increased cardiovascular risk. Type 2 diabetes is a complex condition that requires personalized approaches to treatment, and results from SURPASS-4 demonstrate the potential of tirzepatide to be an important option to help reduce A1C and weight for people with type 2 diabetes on one or up to three oral medicines.” And Mike Mason, president of Lilly Diabetes, added “We look forward to meeting our goal of bringing an important new therapy to people living with this condition, including sharing more detailed results at scientific congresses and submitting to regulatory authorities later this year.”

Want to learn more about blood glucose management? See our “Blood Sugar Chart,” then read “Blood Sugar Monitoring: When to Check and Why” and “Strike the Spike II: How to Manage High Blood Glucose After Meals.”

Living with type 2 diabetes? Check out our free type 2 e-course!

Joseph Gustaitis

Joseph Gustaitis

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A freelance writer and editor based in the Chicago area, Gustaitis has a degree in journalism from Columbia University. He has decades of experience writing about diabetes and related health conditions and interviewing healthcare experts.

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