When will Mounjaro be available in the UK?

Weight loss drug Mounjaro is becoming increasingly popular in the US and is set to launch in the UK in February 2024.
Simon Lovick
1/31/2024
4
min read
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1/31/2024
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Quick summary

The MHRA has approved Mounjaro for patients with type 2 diabetes and patients with obesity. The drug has also been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for use in the NHS for type 2 diabetes and is awaiting approval for obesity.

It is expected to be available in the UK in February 2024


Update Jan 2024: Following recent news, it looks like Mounjaro could be available in the UK within weeks.

Since becoming FDA-approved in May last year, Mounjaro’s popularity has snowballed, flying off the shelves in the US where it is currently available. 

Like Ozempic and Wegovy, Mounjaro is a medication for type 2 diabetes which has become popular for its off-label application as a weight loss drug; but unlike these two, Mounjaro is a tirzepatide, similar to semaglutide albeit another type of GLP-1 receptor agonist (a class of medications commonly referred to as GLP-1s).

Given its popularity in the US, many will be keenly awaiting its approval in the UK. So when can patients expect Mounjaro to be available in the UK? 

What is Mounjaro? 

Before we dive into the availability of Mounjaro, let’s first understand exactly what it is and how it works. 

As mentioned, Mounjaro is a medication prescribed for patients with type 2 diabetes alongside diet and exercise. Mounjaro specifically is the brand name for tirzepatide, which is dual glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and GLP-1. GLP-1s and GIP both increase the production of insulin, helping manage your blood sugar levels. Mounjaro is taken as a weekly injection via a single-use pen.

We’ve written previously about how semaglutide (drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy) works, and tirzepatide has very similar effects. As a GLP-1, it helps decrease how much food you eat by mimicking a hormone which is released after you’ve eaten (therefore making you feel fuller for longer). [1]

GIP, meanwhile, has additional effects of reducing fat accumulation, increasing bone formation, increasing glucagon production, and reducing acid secretion in the stomach [2]

It’s for this reason that these drugs, Mounjaro included, have gained popularity for their off-label use (a use different to that which it was originally intended) as a weight loss drug. In the US, patients are widely able to get prescriptions for Mounjaro through doctors or online pharmacies to help them achieve sustained weight loss. 

Initial trials suggest that Mounjaro/tirzepatide may be more effective for weight loss than semaglutide, with tirzepatide resulting in a weight loss of 17.8% compared with 12.4% for semaglutide [3]. 

When will Mounjaro be available in the UK? 

While it’s currently available on prescription in the US, Mounjaro is not yet available in the UK.

There is some positive movement regarding the assessment of tirzepatide. The National Centre for Health Care and Excellence (NICE) is currently exploring the clinical and cost effectiveness of tirzepatide for type 2 diabetes, with their findings set to be published in August 2023 [4]. Similar studies are underway for its use as a treatment for obesity, although no publication date is in sight.  

The impact of the medication in the US will be watched closely by the UK regulators. Given their receptiveness towards Ozempic (already approved and available on the NHS) and Wegovy (set to launch as a trial), there’s good indications of their interest in GLP-1s and their effectiveness. Some are even saying that tirzepatide may be included in the government’s £40m pilot for these medications. 

Moreover, manufacturer Eli Lilly is pushing for fast-tracked approval of an expedited use for Mounjaro as an obesity treatment in the US, which will no doubt broaden awareness of the benefits of the drugs and may help broaden its availability [5]. 

If tirzepatide is more effective, as trials have shown, patients can be confident that Mounjaro will be made available to them in due course. Currently, the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) approval process for new drugs is 150 days [6], meaning it's unlikely any approval will be before the end of 2023 at the earliest.

Update: The MHRA has approved Mounjaro for patients with type 2 diabetes and patients with obesity. The drug has also been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for use in the NHS for type 2 diabetes and is awaiting approval for obesity.

Alternatives to Mounjaro for weight loss

You’re looking to lose weight: but until Mounjaro is made available in the UK, what are your options? 

Firstly, it's worth considering the other medications that are currently available in the UK. Ozempic is available for prescription in the UK via the NHS (although this is currently very selective, and only available to patients with type 2 diabetes). Here are the main differences between Ozempic and Mounjaro.

Wegovy is now available in the UK, but again strictly prescribed to adults with obesity and at least one related health condition. You can read the differences between Wegovy and Mounjaro here.

The other option—and it's not so much an alternative as a counterpart—is considering the other lifestyle decisions that can help you lose weight. Any weight loss drug, including Mounjaro, recommends users accompany the medication with regular exercise, a healthy, well rounded diet, and cutting down on unhealthy habits like excessive drinking or smoking. While medications like tirzepatide may prove effective, committing to changing other aspects of your lifestyle will build a strong foundation for any targeted weight loss plan. 

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References

[1] Diabetes drug results in substantial weight loss in people with obesity, study finds, BMJ, published 7th June 2022. Accessible here 

[2] Seino, Y., Fukushima, M., Yabe, D. (2010). GIP and GLP‐1, the two incretin hormones: Similarities and differences, J Diabetes Investig. 2010 Apr 22; 1(1-2): 8–23. Accessible here

[3] Azuri, J., Hammerman, A., Aboalhasan, E. et al (2022). Tirzepatide versus semaglutide for weight loss in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: A value for money analysis, Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism, Volume25, Issue4, April 2023, pp.961-964. Accessible here

[4] Tirzepatide for treating type 2 diabetes, NICE, expected publication date 16th August 2023. Accessible here 

[5] 150-day assessment for national applications for medicines, Gov.uk, retrieved 14th June 2023. Accessible here 

[6] What is Tirzepatide?, PrivateDoc, retrieved 14th June 2023. Accessible here

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