The newest obesity drug on the market, Eli Lilly’s tirzepatide, may also help keep people’s blood pressure in check, new research out Monday has shown. The study looked at clinical trial participants and found that people taking it experienced a drop in their systolic blood pressure on average compared to a placebo group over a six-month span. The research is the latest to indicate that a new group of obesity drugs can offer health benefits beyond weight loss.
Tirzepatide, developed by Eli Lilly, mimics two hormones important to regulating our hunger and metabolism, GLP-1 and GIP. Its dual-action mechanism is thought to improve the weight loss potential of this drug class, which are broadly known as incretins. In clinical trials of tirzepatide, people have lost an average 20% or more of their baseline weight. That’s above the average 15% weight loss seen with Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide (sold under the names Ozempic and Wegovy), the first of these newer incretin drugs to receive FDA approval, and well above the typical success seen with diet and exercise alone.
Tirzepatide was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2021 to manage type 2 diabetes under the brand name Mounjaro; in November 2023, it was approved to treat obesity under the brand Zepbound. Much like with semaglutide, though, scientists have been curious about how tirzepatide might affect people’s overall health.
This new research was published Monday in the journal Hypertension. It’s a preplanned analysis of the SURMOUNT-1 clinical trial, one of the key large-scale studies used to secure the drug’s FDA approval for obesity.
The authors looked at a subsection of 600 participants who had their blood pressure monitored for an entire day at the beginning of the study and 36 weeks later. Volunteers had their pressure measured every 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the time of day, and were divided into four groups—three who took varying weekly doses of tirzepatide and the fourth on placebo. About a third of participants reported being diagnosed with hypertension (a reading above 140/90 mm Hg), but were only included in the substudy if they had their blood pressure managed with medication for at least three months prior to the trial.
Overall, the authors found that people taking any dose of tirzepatide consistently saw a drop in their systolic blood pressure (the top number of a reading) when compared to placebo. People taking the lowest dose of tirzepatide saw an average 7.4 mm Hg drop in systolic blood pressure, for example, while those on the highest dose saw an average 8.0 mm Hg decrease. Of the two measures, the authors note, systolic blood pressure is considered the better predictor of future cardiovascular disease over diastolic.
“Although tirzepatide has been studied as a weight loss medication, the blood pressure reduction in our patients in this study was impressive,” said lead study author James A. de Lemos, a professor of medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in a statement from the American Heart Association.
The findings line up with similar research on semaglutide, aka Ozempic/Wegovy. Last August, a large study found that those taking semaglutide who were at higher risk of cardiovascular problems experienced an average 20% reduction in major cardiac events like heart attacks and strokes compared to placebo. Another study later that September found that heart failure patients with obesity improved significantly after taking semaglutide.
There are still some important questions about how these drugs are working to improve people’s cardiovascular health, and they might not be right (or affordable) for everyone with obesity. But the overall picture suggests that these drugs can be used as more than just weight loss treatments, especially for people at higher risk of heart-related issues.
“While it is not known if the impact on blood pressure was due to the medication or the participants’ weight loss, the lower blood pressure measures seen with tirzepatide rivaled what is seen for many hypertension medications,” said de Lemos.