• Scientists have discovered that the new diabetes drug tirzepatide help reduce blood glucose levels 4-12 weeks sooner than existing diabetes medications.
  • While it can help people with type 2 diabetes reach blood glucose targets, the drug can also aid in weight loss.
  • The study results were presented at this year’s European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) meeting in Stockholm, Sweden.

The diabetes drug tirzepatide can help patients with type 2 achieve blood sugar control and weight-loss goals faster than other diabetes medications, according to research presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) meeting in Stockholm, Sweden.

Previous research – phase 3 SURPASS trials – published in 2021- found that tirzepatide is better at lowering blood sugar and supporting weight loss than other drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes.

Now analyses of the SURPASS-2 and SURPASS-3 trials have established that treating adults with various doses of tirzepatide helped them reach blood glucose targets about four weeks sooner than individuals taking 1mg injectable doses of semaglutide, and 4-12 weeks sooner than those taking once-daily insulin, alongside diet and exercise, and oral-glucose lowering medications.

“Tirzepatide is unique because it mimics two natural insulin-releasing and appetite-suppressing hormones in one injection”, said lead author Dr Adie Viljoen, a Consultant Metabolic Physician and Chemical Pathologist from the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, UK.

“The speed we are seeing in glucose-lowering and weight loss is beyond anything else we have available right now and it may put adults with type 2 diabetes in a better position for preventing long-term complications. But it is important to remember that these medications should be used in addition to diet and exercise.”

In the previous SURPASS-2  trial, participants with type 2 diabetes were given either 5mg, 10mg, or 15mg of tirzepatide, or 1mg of semaglutide for 40 weeks. In SURPASS-3, the participants were given either tirzepatide or titrated degludec (iDeg) 52 weeks. Participants in both trials were also given a dose of 1,500 mg of metformin daily.

On average, participants taking tirzepatide lowered their HbA1c levels more than those taking semaglutide and iDeg, and a higher percentage achieved a HbA1c of less than 7% (<53 mmol/mol), less than or equal to 6.5% (≤48 mmol/mol), and less than 5.7% (<39 mmol/mol) at 40-weeks (SURPASS-2) and 52-weeks (SURPASS-3), respectively.

From the latest analysis comparing the time it takes to reach HbA1c targets from the start of the study, the researchers found that taking tirzepatide helped patients achieve their HbA1c targets less than 7% and 6.5% or less faster than iDeg and semaglutide.

The median time to achieve an HbA1c level of less than 7% was around eight weeks for all tirzepatide doses compared to 12 weeks for both semaglutide and iDeg. To reach an HbA1c of 6.5% or less was 12 weeks for tirzepatide, 16 weeks for semaglutide and 24 weeks for iDeg.

When analysing SURPASS-2, the researchers found that participants treated with tirzepatide also achieved weight-loss goals faster than semaglutide. On average, the time to reach 5% or more weight loss was around 12 weeks with doses of 10 or 15mg of tirzepatide, compared to 24 weeks for semaglutide.

“Even a modest weight loss of 5% of initial body weight is associated with clinically significant improvements in weight-related health issues for many individuals. For people with type 2 diabetes to be able to achieve these improvements in health in around half the time is pretty incredible,” concluded Dr Viljoen.

Participants taking tirzepatide reported mild to moderate gastrointestinal adverse events, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. However, these were most frequently reported during the dose escalation period, with the side effects decreasing over time.

The study’s authors also acknowledge several limitations of the study, with all the studies not specifically designed to compare rates of glycaemic control and weight loss.

This article is from an early release presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) Annual Meeting in Stockholm, Sweden (19-23 Sept).

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