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What is Tirzepatide Used For?
Updated on June 26, 2023
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Diet / Weight Loss
What is Tirzepatide Used For?

Tirzepatide is a recently developed drug used to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus. 

Studies have shown that it can help people with type 2 diabetes mellitus control their blood sugar. It has also been found to help obese people lose weight, whether or not they have diabetes. 

Because of this, Tirzepatide could help a significant amount of people, including over 400 million people with diabetes and 650 million people considered to be obese globally.1,2

This article will cover the most important facts related to Tirzepatide, including what it is used for, how it works, possible side effects, and other common questions related to the drug.

What is Tirzepatide?

Tirzepatide is a drug used to control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. It is the first in a new class of drugs called twincretins, named after how they enhance the effect of two hormones called incretins.3

Tirzepatide is administered with an injection, but it only needs to be taken once a week.4

In 2022, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Tirzepatide for type 2 diabetes mellitus.5

How Does Tirzepatide Work?

Tirzepatide works by mimicking the effects of two key hormones: glucose dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). 

Glucose dependent insulinotropic polypeptide is also sometimes known as gastric inhibitory peptide, but both are abbreviated to GIP.

A drug that mimics the effect of another molecule is known as an agonist. This makes Tirzepatide a GLP-1 receptor agonist and a GIP receptor agonist.6

One of the most important roles of GIP and GLP-1 is the release of insulin, which helps lower your blood sugar.7 GLP-1 is also associated with decreased appetite. This and other roles that GIP and GLP-1 play make Tirzepatide extremely helpful for both managing diabetes and weight loss.8

Tirzepatide and Diabetes

One of the key parts of managing type 2 diabetes mellitus is glycemic control, or blood sugar control.9 Tirzepatide can achieve this by signaling your body to produce more insulin and helping improve insulin sensitivity.8

Insulin is an important hormone that helps your body control blood glucose. In people with poorly controlled diabetes, the body struggles to produce enough insulin. This means blood sugar can rise to dangerous levels, resulting in a wide variety of harmful effects.9 These include:10

  • Damage to the eyes, potentially resulting in blindness
  • Damage to the kidneys
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease

GLP-1 and GIP both signal your body to produce more insulin. By mimicking the effects of these hormones, Tirzepatide boosts insulin production, helping with glycemic control. Some evidence also shows that Tirzepatide improves insulin sensitivity.7,8

Tirzepatide is not the only GLP-1 receptor agonist, but Tirzepatide is the first dual GIP and GLP-1 receptor agonist. This dual-targeted treatment approach gives Tirzepatide an edge over other diabetes medicines that only mimic GLP-1.

Tirzepatide vs. Semaglutide Clinical Trial

The SURPASS-2 study is one in a series of SURPASS clinical trials showing how effective Tirzepatide can be for glycemic control. This study examined 1,878 people who were given Tirzepatide in different doses vs. Semaglutide, a GLP-1 receptor agonist. 

The results showed those who took Tirzepatide had more improved blood sugar control compared to people who took Semaglutide. People given higher doses of Tirzepatide had better glycemic control on average. Even people taking the lowest dose of Tirzepatide had better blood sugar reductions than people taking semaglutide. This means that a drug combining a GLP-1 receptor agonist and GIP receptor agonist could improve blood sugar control more than a drug affecting only GLP-1

This clinical trial also found that Tirzepatide was relatively safe, with the most common side effects being nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.8

Tirzepatide and Weight Loss

Tirzepatide can also aid in weight loss by mimicking the function of GLP-1. Aside from releasing insulin, GLP-1 can also affect how fast food moves out of the stomach. It can also affect signals in the brain that tell you you’re full, resulting in decreased appetite. In other words,  a GLP-1 receptor agonist like Tirzepatide can help you feel full, which can reduce the amount you eat.11

Clinical trials have found encouraging evidence that Tirzepatide is effective for weight loss. 

One study looked at 2,539 people with obesity and gave them either Tirzepatide or a placebo for 72 weeks. Most of the people in the trial were considered obese, with a body mass index greater than 30. After this period, the people given the placebo lost an average of 3.1% of their body weight. People who took the lowest dosage of Tirzepatide (5mg) had an average body weight reduction of 15%. 

The study also found that people taking higher doses of Tirzepatide lost more weight. Those taking the highest dose lost an average of 20.9% of their body weight. 

Safety is also an important concern with weight loss drugs. This clinical trial found that Tirzepatide was generally safe when used for weight loss.12

Higher doses of Tirzepatide can help reduce body weight even more, but side effects may be worse at higher doses.13

Is Tirzepatide Safe?

Tirzepatide is generally safe to use. As a prescription medication, Tirzepatide should only be used when prescribed by a doctor. 

Tirzepatide should not be used by people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The effects of Tirzepatide have not been studied in children, so the drug is not recommended for use if you are under 18 years old. 

Tirzepatide can also interfere with the effects of oral hormonal contraceptives, making them less effective. If you use oral hormonal contraceptives and must take Tirzepatide, consider switching to a non-oral contraceptive.

Increased heart rate is also a common side effect. This is normal, but you should take caution if you have a condition that can be affected by an increased heart rate.4

Does Tirzepatide Have Any Side Effects?

Like many other drugs, using Tirzepatide can have side effects. The most common side effects of Tirzepatide include:4

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue

Some side effects like abdominal pain become more common with higher dosages of Tirzepatide.

The manufacturer of Tirzepatide warns that there is a risk of thyroid C-cell tumors associated with the drug. However, this has only been observed in rats, and there is no known risk in humans. Still, if you have a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma, you should not take Tirzepatide.

How to Use Tirzepatide

You should take Tirzepatide only once a week. You can take it at any time of day, whether or not you have recently eaten. 

You administer Tirzepatide by injecting it into your abdomen, thigh, or upper arm. It is best to rotate between injecting it into your arm, abdomen, and thigh every week. You should make sure to insert the needle at a 45-degree angle when you make the injection.

The usual starting dose of Tirzepatide is 2.5 mg once a week. After four weeks, there is usually a dosage adjustment to 5 mg once a week. Your starting dose may not be increased for some people, including:

  • People with some kidney issues
  • People with some liver issues
  • People older than 65

In the event of a missed dose, take it as soon as you can unless four days have passed since you should have taken your last dose. If four days or more have passed, skip the dose for that week. Then, take your next dose according to your normal dosing schedule.

You can change the day you take Tirzepatide every week. Just leave at least three days between doses when you do this.

If you overdose on Tirzepatide, it is best to contact a doctor or poison control center ASAP. An overdose can result in severe gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea. 

If you think you have taken too much, be sure to monitor your blood glucose closely. Because Tirzepatide is active in the body for a long time, you should monitor your condition over several days.4

Can Tirzepatide Be Used with Other Diabetes Medications?

Yes, Tirzepatide can be taken with some other diabetes medications. 

You can take Tirzepatide along with metformin and insulin. You can also take it with other drugs that help control blood glucose, like SGLT2 inhibitors.14 

However, you should not take Tirzepatide with other diabetes drugs that affect incretins. These include DPP4 inhibitors and other GLP-1 receptor agonists.4

Tirzepatide FAQs

Is Tirzepatide FDA-approved for weight loss?

No, Tirzepatide is not FDA-approved for weight loss. There is FDA approval for Tirzepatide use in type 2 diabetes only. However, doctors can prescribe it for weight loss in some cases.15

Can type 1 diabetics use Tirzepatide?

No, Tirzepatide should not be used by people with type 1 diabetes mellitus. There is currently no evidence that it is effective for this condition.4

Is Tirzepatide a pill or an injection?

Tirzepatide is only available as an injection. There is currently no oral form of the drug.4

Updated on June 26, 2023
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15 sources cited
Updated on June 26, 2023
  1. Diabetes.” World Health Organization. 
  2. Obesity and Overweight.” World Health Organization.
  3. Fanshier, AV, et al. “Tirzepatide: A Novel Glucose-Dependent Insulinotropic Polypeptide/Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 Receptor Agonist for the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes—The First Twincretin.” Clinical Diabetes. 02 Mar. 2023.
  4. Eli Lilly “Mounjaro: tirzepatide injection.” Product monograph. 
  5. FDA Approves Novel, Dual-Targeted Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes.” US Food and Drug Administration. 13 May 2022. 
  6. Willard, FS, et al. “Tirzepatide is an imbalanced and biased dual GIP and GLP-1 receptor agonist.” JCI Insight. 03 Sept. 2020.
  7. Seino, Y, et al. “GIP and GLP-1, the two incretin hormones: Similarities and differences.” Journal of Diabetes Investigation. 22 Apr. 2023. 
  8. Frias, JP, et al. “Tirzepatide versus Semaglutide Once Weekly in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.” New England Journal of Medicine. 5 Aug. 2022.
  9. Rahman, MS, et al. “Role of Insulin in Health and Disease.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
  10. Mouri, M, et al. “Hyperglycemia.” StatPearls. 28 Apr. 2022.
  11. Shah, M, et al. “Effects of GLP-1 on appetite and weight.” Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders. Jun. 2021. 
  12. Jastreboff, AM, et al. “Tirzepatide Once Weekly for the Treatment of Obesity.” New England Journal of Medicine. 21 Jul. 2022. 
  13. Farzam, K, et al. “Tirzepatide.” StatPearls. 27 Dec. 2022.
  14. De Block, C, et al. “Tirzepatide for the treatment of adults with type 2 diabetes: An endocrine perspective.” Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. 05 Aug. 2022. 
  15. Landsverk, G. “What to know about Mounjaro, the next game-changing medication awaiting FDA approval to treat weight loss.” Insider. 17 Mar 2023. 
Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
Kelly Jamrozy
Kelly Jamrozy
Content Contributor
Kelly has experience working with clients in a variety of industries, including legal, medical, marketing, and travel. Her goal is to share important information that people can use to make decisions about their health and the health of their loved ones. From choosing the best treatment programs to improving dental and vision health to finding the best method for helping anyone who is struggling with health issues, she hopes to share what she learns through informative content.
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