Drugs claiming to make weight loss easy have been around since the Victorian era, yet obesity is still a significant health problem in many countries. The obvious reasons for this are: firstly, body weight is a complicated issue subject to a mix of genetic, environmental, and societal factors. Secondly, weight loss scams have been around just as long and often outnumber effective treatments.
In the last few years, a new kind of injectable weight loss drug has grown in popularity and actually seems to deliver on the promise of making weight loss achievable. So what is Mounjaro, and does it help you lose weight?
What Is Mounjaro?
The Short Version
Monujaro is the brand name of an injectable drug called tirzepatide, which was developed to help control blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics. It has the side effect of suppressing appetite and slowing emptying of the stomach, and often causes weight loss. For this reason, Mounjaro has been prescribed off-label as a weight loss drug.
Mounjaro is part of a new class of injectable drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists. Other drugs in this category include Ozempic, Wegovy, Vextova, and Byetta. Of these, Wegovy has recently gained attention for being granted FDA approval as a weight loss treatment.
GLP-1 receptor agonists trick the body into thinking the stomach is full, delay emptying of the stomach, trigger insulin release, and block the release of glucagon. This combination slows the release of sugar into the blood and improves the ability of the body to modulate blood sugar levels.
Tirzepatide also acts as a GIP receptor agonist, increasing insulin sensitivity and regulating lipid metabolism. These additional benefits are responsible for the increased weight loss seen by patients on Mounjaro.
Currently, clinical trials demonstrate tirzepatide to be more effective at causing weight loss than semaglutide, the main ingredient of Ozempic and Wegovy, despite the fact that Wegovy has been approved for weight loss and tirzepatide has not. However, Eli Lilly, the company behind Mounjaro, partially funded these trials. Eli Lilly has publicly stated plans to receive FDA approval to market Mounjaro as a weight loss drug by the end of 2024.
Where to Find Mounjaro?
Mounjaro is currently only available when prescribed by a healthcare professional. It’s essential to undergo a health check before starting Mounjaro to ensure you are not at risk of any life-threatening interactions.
Mounjaro®️ on Third Avenue – Editor’s Choice
Although most doctors can prescribe Mounjaro, tirzepatide is most effective when used as part of a holistic, long-term strategy. Tirzepatide treatment is long-term and can be both expensive and unpleasant, so it’s important to maintain a relationship with a healthcare provider familiar with weight loss drugs to keep things working smoothly.
We recommend Third Avenue, a telehealth platform that allows you to connect with board-certified weight loss experts no matter where you are. Virtual clinics have exploded in popularity in recent years and have shown particular advantages when it comes to health topics where patients may not feel comfortable discussing treatment in traditional settings.
Third Avenue specializes in discreet, professional treatment of sensitive topics such as erectile dysfunction, hair loss, and weight management. Their expertise in personal health issues allows them to offer treatment in a manner that makes the patient more comfortable, aided by the fact that consultations can be done in a familiar home environment.
The virtual nature of Third Avenue also provides a significant advantage in the availability of treatment. Tirzepatide can cause significant, unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects with little to no warning. The advantages of 24/7 support from your own home cannot be understated when it comes to dealing with these side effects.
Does Mounjaro Work?
Fit for Purpose
The FDA has approved Mounjaro for treating blood sugar imbalance in type 2 diabetics. Approval is only given if it can be proven that the medication is effective and fit for purpose, so it can be assumed that Mounjaro can assist in blood sugar regulation. It is important to remember that Mounjaro was not developed to cause weight loss and is not a weight loss treatment. Clinical trials, FDA approval, and safety guidelines are all based on administering tirzepatide as part of a diabetes management plan and not for use in assisting weight loss.
When the risks and potential side effects of Mounjaro were balanced against the advantages of treatment, said advantages included treatment of a potentially deadly disease, not weight loss. Rare side effects such as pancreatitis, gallstones, and thyroid cancer are all considered more reasonable when the alternative to treatment includes potentially fatal complications from diabetes.
That said, obesity is also associated with a wide range of negative health effects, and those with a BMI over 30 are at risk from heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and overall increased mortality. In addition to this, studies have shown quality of life declines significantly in those with a BMI over 30. For those struggling with the physical and mental effects of obesity, losing weight becomes much more important than simply looking thinner.
When considering Mounjaro as a weight loss drug, studies have shown it to be extremely effective at assisting weight loss when combined with lifestyle changes such as increased exercise and a change in diet. The average amount of weight lost by those on a 72-week trial of tirzepatide ranged from 14% to 16% of starting body weight. 80% of all patients lost at least 5% of their starting weight or around 10 pounds.
Although it’s tempting to measure weight loss from Mounjaro each week or through weekly before and after pictures, it’s important to remember that tirzepatide is a long-term treatment, not an instant cure. Studies have shown that patients can expect to lose about one pound a week for the first ten weeks of treatment. However, after the initial ten weeks, weight loss often slows. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the average rate of weight loss after several months on Mounjaro is around half a pound a week. However, this varies depending on other changes to the patient's lifestyle.
As a long-term treatment, exact weight loss week by week can fluctuate, with some weeks including weight gain. The loss of one pound per week in the first ten weeks is an average over a large sample size, and the actual amount of weight change can vary significantly depending on the individual. For this reason, it’s often not a good idea to judge the effectiveness of Mounjaro weight loss by week or weekly before and after pictures, and instead to look at the overall trend of monthly measurements.
Before and After Pictures
With Mounjaro sales reaching nearly one billion dollars in the second quarter of 2023, the internet is flooded with people documenting their successful weight loss. Here are some of the before and after images they’ve shared online.
Tara Rothenhoefer was one of the first patients to undergo treatment with Mounjaro after entering a clinical trial in 2020. With type 2 diabetes and a family history of deadly complications from obesity, treatment with the unknown drug was worth the risk.
Tara lost around 75 pounds in the first six months, going on to lose a total of over 180 pounds. While she worked with a nutritionist to make changes to her lifestyle, as soon as she stopped treatment with tirzepatide, she began to regain the weight. She now takes a maintenance dose to prevent weight gain.
Charles Barkley is perhaps the most well-known celebrity undergoing treatment with Mounjaro. The former NBA star has lost over 60 pounds since beginning tirzepatide treatment, combined with regular exercise. Although currently a Weight Watchers spokesperson, Charles Barkley has been outspoken about his attempts to lose weight for many years and only found success after starting treatment with tirzepatide.
Mari C (mcruzita979) is one of the most popular examples of successful weight loss with Mounjaro. Over the course of a year, she lost 80 pounds. This was achieved with a combination of lifestyle changes, dietary changes, and weekly Mounjaro injections.
The above photos detail Mari C’s one-year journey. It’s worth noting that the majority of weight loss occurs within the first six months. This is common with Mounjaro, as the higher the starting weight, the easier it is to lose weight initially. Now that she has successfully achieved her goal weight, it is unclear whether Mari C will continue to take Mounjaro.
Emily (emsuz1) experienced similar weight loss, with the above photos documenting her weight loss of 92 pounds over the course of a year. As of September 2023, she has lost a total of over 150 pounds. Weight loss of this magnitude often leaves excess skin behind, which may require surgery to correct. Although excess skin is mostly a cosmetic issue, it can significantly affect day-to-day self-esteem. Emily plans to have the excess skin removed when she feels ready and can afford the procedure.
Matthew Barlow lost more than 100 pounds in five months using Mounjaro. Although there is no apparent difference in how well tirzepatide works in men and women, the majority of those openly taking the drug are female. Although this is common with weight loss drugs in general, the gender difference in stated tirzepatide usage is much more pronounced.
If the idea of simply taking an injection once a week and effortlessly losing weight sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. Treatment with tirzepatide comes with a host of unpleasant side effects as well as risks, including cancer, pancreatitis, and gallstones.
The most common side effects are gastrointestinal, with up to 65% of patients on higher doses of tirzepatide experiencing mild to moderate adverse gastrointestinal events during phase one and two studies, compared to only 10% of those taking a placebo. These included nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dyspepsia (pain or heaviness in the stomach), and bloating.
In one of the earliest studies, 25% of patients on the highest dose discontinued the use of tirzepatide due to adverse gastrointestinal effects. Around 5% of patients discontinued usage for lower doses due to adverse gastrointestinal effects. Around three percent of all patients experienced severe gastrointestinal events requiring medical intervention.
Although the majority of those undergoing treatment with tirzepatide will experience at least one bout of gastrointestinal distress, clinical trials suggest that for those on lower doses, this is rarely enough to cause patients to discontinue treatment. The severity of these reactions can be reduced by introducing tirzepatide gradually over time, and diet modification can reduce the severity of nausea and dyspepsia.
When looking at patient reviews outside of trials, the exact symptoms of severe gastrointestinal effects are apparent. The week-long efficacy of a single injection causes bouts of negative side effects to last up to a week, with some patients describing extremely unpleasant bouts of vomiting, lasting from five to eight days on average. In all cases, this prompted discontinuation of treatment. A minority of patients experienced nausea or diarrhea severe enough to require hospitalization.
One of the less discussed side effects of treatment with tirzepatide is hair loss. Around five percent of all patients taking tirzepatide experienced some degree of alopecia. While this can be distressing to some, no patients in clinical trials reported discontinuing treatment due to hair loss.
A small number of participants in clinical trials of tirzepatide develop a major depressive disorder or suicidal ideations. Although the incidence is less than one percent, both doctors and patients should be aware of the potential risk and have a plan in place to manage negative mental effects.
A small but significant number of patients experienced gallbladder inflammation and the formation of gallstones during clinical trials. This is also seen with other GLP-1 receptor agonists, such as semaglutide, and is likely a side effect of slowed digestion. For this reason, those with a family history of gallbladder disease may not be suited for treatment with Mounjaro.
Tirzepatide, semaglutide, and other GLP-1 receptor agonists are all associated with an increased risk of pancreatitis. The exact increase in risk isn’t known, as GLP-1 receptor agonists have been in use for less than a decade, and no conclusive studies have been undertaken to determine the incidence rate of severe pancreatic effects in patients undergoing treatment with GLP-1 receptor agonists. Those with a history of pancreatitis are advised against taking Mounjaro.
Animal studies have shown an increased risk of thyroid cancers associated with GLP-1 receptor agonists. Although there is currently no evidence that this also occurs in humans, Eli Lilly includes a warning on the packet stating that Monujaro may cause thyroid cancer and instructs patients on what signs to look out for.
Patients with a personal or family history of thyroid cancer should not take Mounjaro, as the exact level of danger can not currently be estimated. There is a lack of long-term studies regarding the carcinogenicity of GLP-1 receptor agonists, and although no human studies have shown any risk, it is entirely possible that long-term effects could include an increased risk of thyroid cancer.
There are no studies on the effects of Mounjaro on long-term health. Although some potential dangers can be inferred from studies of other GLP-1 receptor agonists, injectable weight loss drugs as a whole have not been on the market for more than a few years. Information regarding medication interactions, long-term carcinogenicity, long-term damage to organs, and effect on reproductive capability is all limited.
How Much Does Mounjaro Cost?
The cost of Mounjaro can fluctuate significantly depending on location. Very few countries currently subsidize weight loss treatment with tirzepatide, so all costs must either be paid out of pocket or be covered under insurance.
Commercial Insurance Covering Mounjaro
Most insurance companies will only cover the cost when Mounjaro is prescribed as part of a healthcare plan for type 2 diabetes. If your doctor prescribes Mounjaro off-label for weight loss, it is unlikely that your insurance will cover it. You’ll also need to pay any excess, deductibles, or co-pays, which will vary depending on your insurance plan.
If you have commercial insurance, which partially covers the cost of Mounjaro, the Mounjaro Savings Card can reduce the amount you have to pay down to $25 a month. Savings will vary depending on how much you have to pay and how much your insurer will pay. The Savings Card will offer a discount of up to $150 a month for the first three months.
The exact benefit of the Savings Card can be unclear at first. An example is if you have commercial insurance covering Mounjaro, but you must pay a 20% co-pay. The cost for a one-month prescription is around $1000. With a 20% co-pay, you have to pay $200 per month. If you then use the Mounjaro Savings Card, this could be reduced down to $50 per month for the first three months.
Although this is helpful for those first trying tirzepatide, it’s worth noting that Mounjaro is a long-term treatment, and most patients can expect to pay for monthly prescriptions for several years.
Commercial Insurance Which Does Not Cover Mounjaro
If you have commercial insurance but they will not cover the cost of Mounjaro, there are still discounts available through the Mounjaro Savings Card. You can save $575 per month or just over half the prescription price if eligible. The total discount available per year is $3450, or around six months of discounted prescriptions.
The Mounjaro Savings Card is, in all cases, a temporary discount and may be discontinued at any point without warning. Eli Lilly reserves the right to cancel the Savings Card at any time without giving reason or notice. For this reason, you may not want to rely on the Savings Card to ensure your monthly prescription costs are covered.
Medicare and Medicaid
Medicare does not currently cover weight loss treatments, as they are deemed a lifestyle medication. However, this was determined before FDA-approved weight loss drugs such as Wegovy entered the mainstream market. This may change as information becomes available regarding potential savings when preventative health care is provided instead of treating obesity-related health issues directly.
Medicaid may or may not cover Mounjaro, depending on which state you live in. This situation is currently still in development, and your best way to determine if Medicaid covers Mounjaro in your state is to contact your state Medicaid agency.
In most cases, if Mounjaro is covered at all, it is only covered as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. However, a growing number of states have approved Wegovy, another GLP-1 receptor agonist, for the treatment of obesity. This suggests that if Mounjaro is granted approval by the FDA as a weight loss treatment, it may soon be covered by Medicaid programs as a weight loss treatment as well as for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
The list price of Mounjaro is $1023.04 per four-week supply. This is the minimum standard price retailers will sell the medication for, though various sales and discounts may be available depending on the outlet. Conversely, retailers may increase the price to cover shipping, storage, and profit. Some healthcare providers can supply free samples, which will help you to determine if you have any adverse effects before you buy a month’s supply.
Mounjaro is administered through injection once a week. This injection can be given by the patient and is injected into the belly, thigh, or upper arm.
Mounjaro injections are designed to minimize the stress of injection and hide the needle during the entire process. Each dose is contained within a single-use plastic pen, which is pressed against the skin, and the needle injects the tirzepatide at the press of a button. The process is very quick, and although there is a slight sting, most patients have no difficulty with administering Mounjaro themselves.
Mounjaro can cause irritation at the injection site, with between 2% and 8% of patients reporting issues such as stinging, burning, redness, and swelling. This can be reduced by letting the dose warm to room temperature before administration and injecting it into a different area of the body each time.
Long Term Planning
One of the most crucial aspects of taking Mounjaro for weight loss is the necessity of ongoing treatment. Mounjaro is only effective while the patient is taking regular doses. Upon discontinuing a six-month course of tirzepatide treatment, one study's participants regained approximately 15% of their starting weight within the following year. As the average weight loss in this study was around 20% of the starting weight, this reduced most of the benefits associated with the weight loss.
This is due to the fact that although Mounjaro and other GLP-1 receptor agonists assist with weight loss, the original issues causing weight gain remain untreated. For those who have attempted weight loss in the past without success, continuous treatment with a GLP-1 receptor agonist is the only way to prevent rebound weight gain. As the long-term health effects of GLP-1 receptor agonists are unknown, this is a cause for concern.
Although some users report making no changes to their lifestyle and still losing weight, it is clear that Mounjaro is significantly more effective when combined with a change in diet and exercise. A change in diet is essential for most patients, as the increased digestion time can cause some foods to ferment unpleasantly in the gut. In particular, the slower emptying of the stomach allows food to react with stomach acid for longer, resulting in sulfurous burps.
Foods high in fat or sugar also trigger the release of natural GLP-1. When combined with tirzepatide, this can result in an excess of signals telling the brain that the stomach is full. This, in turn, can trigger diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting as the body attempts to correct the situation.
Lastly, the reduced intake of food necessitates the consumption of nutrient-dense foods. In order to maintain the required daily intake of protein, vitamins, and minerals, patients must increase the amount of lean protein, fruit, and vegetables in their diet.
All of these changes are best advised by a weight loss specialist, who can suggest a diet that both provides the necessary nutrition and works with the patient’s dietary preferences. Ongoing support by a specialist allows for adjustments in diet to promote a better sense of energy and ensure the correct intake of vitamins and minerals. As each individual can tolerate different foods to differing degrees, a certain amount of trial and error is required to find the best diet for each individual.
Third Avenue excels at working with patients on an individual level instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. Their familiarity with weight loss drugs such as Mounjaro provides important background knowledge regarding what is and is not likely to cause digestive issues.
The 24/7 support and virtual consults also make it easy to keep in contact with your specialist and to make adjustments as needed to keep your weight loss journey effective and enjoyable — learn more at Third Avenue today.
The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. It is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified healthcare professional. You should always consult with your doctor or a licensed healthcare provider before taking any medication or making decisions regarding your health.
Medications discussed herein are prescription medications, and it should only be used under the guidance and supervision of a qualified healthcare professional. You should not use prescription medications without a valid prescription from a licensed healthcare provider.
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Please be aware that individual experiences with medications like these may vary. The effectiveness and safety of Viagra depend on various factors, including an individual's health, medical history, and adherence to prescribed dosages. Consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice and recommendations.
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