Zepbound Eases Sleep Apnea Symptoms by 63%

According to Zepbound's maker, Eli Lilly, phase 3 clinical trial results show that the weight loss drug reduced sleep apnea severity in participants with obesity by up to 63%.

On April 17, Eli Lilly announced the results of its SURMOUNT-OSA phase 3 clinical trials investigating whether Zepbound (tirzepatide), one of the latest injectable weight loss drugs on the market, can safely and effectively reduce the symptoms and severity of obstructive sleep apnea.

The company says trial participants with sleep apnea and obesity taking Zepbound experienced about 30 fewer airway obstruction events per hour during sleep or an apnea-hypopnea index reduction of up to 63% compared to individuals given a placebo.

The results were nearly the same among participants who used continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines and those who did not.

Moreover, trial participants experienced a nearly 20% body weight reduction after 52 weeks on Zepbound.

Based on the trial results, Lilly plans to submit the data to the FDA, hoping to add obstructive sleep apnea to the list of Zepbound's approved uses.

The background on Zepbound

Zepbound has the same active ingredient as Mounjaro, a diabetes management medication. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) late last year for weight management in adults with a high body mass index (BMI) or obesity who also have one or more weight-related health conditions.

Soon after approval, the FDA announced a shortage of Zepbound and Mounjaro, likely the result of the medications' popularity.

Still, the FDA is investigating Zepbound and other diabetes/weight management drugs due to reports of adverse side effects, including inhalation of food into the airway, hair loss, and suicidal thoughts.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea impacts nearly 1 billion people worldwide. It is a sleep disorder that causes a person to have episodes of reduced or blocked airflow in the upper airway while sleeping. People with this condition may stop breathing briefly, which causes them to wake up, resulting in sleep disruptions throughout the night.

Some of the risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include advanced age, smoking, and obesity. Research suggests that obesity is common among people with sleep apnea.

If left untreated, the condition can lead to cardiovascular events, high blood pressure, and fatigue-related accidents. Typically, treating obstructive sleep apnea involves using a CPAP machine while sleeping and addressing the underlying risk factors such as obesity.

Prescription weight loss drugs like Zepbound may help people with obesity lose weight, which may impact obesity-related health conditions like sleep apnea. For example, Novo Nordisk's weight management medication, Wegovy, has been associated with a 20% reduction in heart attack and stroke — conditions also linked to obesity.

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