Health Experts Answer 9 Common Questions

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Mounjaro has been found to be effective at aiding with weight loss but there are several potential health risks people should consider before beginning use. Sandy Huffaker for The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • Mounjaro is one of several new drugs with high potential for helping people lose weight.
  • These new drugs have many similarities, but also important differences that people should be aware of before starting treatment.
  • Mounjaro could be beneficial for many people, but it’s not the right solution for everyone.

Since it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May of 2022, Mounjaro has been making headlines for its ability to help people quickly lose significant amounts of weight.

But is Mounjaro for everyone? How do you get it, how much does it cost, and how safe is the medication?

We asked health experts these questions and several others people commonly have regarding the use of Mounjaro for weight loss.

Here’s what they had to say about the benefits and risks of this prescription drug and what people should consider before use.

According to Dr. Anthony Jay Millard, a weight loss specialist from the Northwestern Medicine Center for Lifestyle Medicine, Mounjaro is the brand name for the drug tirzepatide, which is currently approved to treat type 2 diabetes (T2D).

“It is a replica of two hormones made in the intestine called GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) and GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide) that work in multiple ways to both regulate appetite and regulate blood sugar levels,” Millard told Healthline.

“The blood sugar regulation appears to mostly occur when blood sugar levels are high, as they can be in people with diabetes (hence the ‘glucose-dependent’ part of the GIP naming),” Millard said.

Other popular weight loss drugs include Ozempic, which — like Mounjaro — is only approved to treat type 2 diabetes, and Wegovy, which is approved as a weight loss medication.

The active ingredient in these drugs is semaglutide, which acts like GLP-1 in your body.

Mounjaro acts like GLP-1, but also acts like a second hormone: GIP.

“The second hormone, GIP, that is added is the primary difference. There are some who feel that the GLP-1 version in tirzepatide is perhaps a more potent version relative to that in semaglutide, but they are both quite effective,” said Millard.

Mounjaro can help you to lose weight, but how much weight, and how fast?

“It is highly variable. Every person is different with how fast they respond to losing weight on this medication,” Dr. Amanda Velazquez, director of Obesity Medicine in the Department of Surgery at Cedars-Sinai, told Healthline.

“Per the research, on average, an individual can expect to lose 20% total body weight loss in a little over a year of taking Mounjaro in combination with a healthy lifestyle,” Velazquez added.

“Mounjaro is currently FDA approved for long-term use in patients with diabetes, meaning it has shown to be safe for long-term use,” said Velazquez.

But, like all medications, even though Mounjaro is considered safe it does come with possible side effects and increased risks of certain medical conditions.

According to Velazquez, the most common side effects of Mounjaro are nausea and constipation.

Jordan Hill, lead registered dietitian with Top Nutrition Coaching, told Healthline that other side effects might include:

“Other rare but serious side effects include risk of thyroid cancer, acute pancreatitis, hypoglycemia, acute gallbladder disease, and allergic reaction,” said Hill.

“Mounjaro is administered via subcutaneous injections and is meant to be a long-term treatment,” said Hill.

Mounjaro is not currently available in other forms, such as a pill.

“The recommended starting dose is 2.5 mg once per week and is then increased to 5 mg once per week after 4 weeks,” said Hill.

For some people, this may be the right dosage for long-term use, but your doctor may recommend additional increases depending on your unique circumstances.

“Additional dose increases may include 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, and a max of 15 mg once per week,” said Hill.

“Mounjaro is prescribed for folks with type 2 diabetes and may be prescribed off-label for weight loss in adults with or without type 2 diabetes,” said Hill.

Off-label use of a drug means that it’s being used in a way that has not been specifically approved by the FDA.

“The criteria for an off-label prescription is up to the prescribing physician and usually follows [body mass index] definitions for obesity (BMI >30), and overweight (BMI >27 with at least one health condition related to weight),” said Hill.

There are also some groups of people who may want to specifically avoid Mounjaro.

“Mounjaro should not be taken by those with type 1 diabetes, those with thyroid, pancreas, kidney, or gallbladder complications, or those under the age of 18 years old,” said Hill.

“The current thinking is that these medications need to be taken long-term. It is likely one’s A1c or weight will increase when the medication is stopped,” said Millard.

“It is helpful to think of the way the body regulates weight like a thermostat in your home,” Millard explained.

“In our bodies, the ‘weight thermostat’ works far more robustly when the temperature is low — i.e. we’ve lost weight — to bring the temperature back up. There are hormones and neurochemical signals that shift to make us slightly hungrier, make it harder for us to feel full, and thus predispose us to regain some if not all of the weight we previously lost,” Millard said.

Dr. Mir Ali, bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, told Healthline that the cost can be highly variable.

“If the insurance covers it, a lot of it depends on the patient’s plan, the copay, their deductible. I’ve heard as little as $25 per month with insurance covering it,” said Ali.

And if Mounjaro isn’t covered by insurance, as is frequently the case with off-label use?

“It can be $1,000 or more per month to pay out-of-pocket,” said Ali.

Other new drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy are also finding popularity, to the point where there have already been shortages.

But there are other established weight loss medications that you might consider as an alternative to Mounjaro.

“There’s phentermine, which has been around a long time and is basically an appetite suppressant. It’s relatively cheap and easily available. Another [alternative] would be topiramate. There are some others like Saxenda. It’s kind of trial and error to see which medications are helpful for each patient,” said Ali.

Weight loss treatments aren’t exclusively limited to medications, either.

“Working with a registered dietitian on lifestyle modifications may help manage type 2 diabetes and/or manage weight,” said Hill.

Mounjaro has proven to be an effective way to lose weight for people with type 2 diabetes.

It may be prescribed as a weight loss medication for people without type 2 diabetes if your doctor thinks it’s a safe and appropriate option, but this won’t be the case for everyone.

If you’re interested in losing weight, working with a physician, registered dietician, or other specialist may help to identify other ways to lose weight in a healthy way, either instead of or in addition to taking medication.