USA Today: Karen Weintraub – A drug recently approved to treat type 2 diabetes is also extremely effective at reducing obesity, according to a new study.

The drug, called tirzepatide, works on two naturally-occurring hormones that help control blood sugar and are involved in sending fullness signals from the gut to the brain

Researchers noticed that people who took the drug for their diabetes also lost weight. The new trial focused on people who have obesity without diabetes and found even more weight loss.

Those taking the highest of three studied doses lost as much as 21 percent of their body weight – as many as 50-60 pounds in some cases.

Nothing has provided that kind of weight loss except surgery, said Dr Robert Gabbay, chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association. The full study was presented Saturday at the ADA’s annual convention in New Orleans and simultaneously published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Another obesity treatment approved last year called semaglutide, from Novo Nordisk, provides an average of up to about 15 percent weight loss. Previous generations of diet drugs cut only about 5 percent of weight and many carried prohibitive side effects. 

“We’ve not had tools like this,” Gabbay said. “I think it’s really exciting.”

For most of the trial participants, side effects from tirzepatide were not serious, said Jeff Emmick, vice president of product development for the diabetes division of drug giant Lilly, which makes the drug.