A study of the weight loss drug tirzepatide showed that people who took it had significantly lower blood pressures after 36 weeks of taking the medication.
Tirzepatide, manufactured by Eli Lilly, is used to treat type 2 diabetes under the trade name Mounjaro and to treat obesity under the trade name Zepbound. It’s the latest in a new class of weight-loss drugs, and its main competitor is semaglutide, made by Novo Nordisk and sold as Ozempic for diabetes and as Wegovy for weight loss.
For both medications, researchers have been evaluating whether they have additional effects that go beyond weight loss.
The blood pressure study, supported by Eli Lilly and published Monday in the journal Hypertension, was part of a larger effort to evaluate the effects of tirzepatide on weight loss. Researchers had previously found that people who took the drug had lower blood pressures when readings were taken in the doctor’s office.
The new study applied more stringent criteria: Did participants who took the drug have lower pressures when measured with a 24-hour monitor? They had. Those who took the drug had systolic blood pressures — the pressure on blood vessels when the heart contracts — that were 7.4 to 10.0 millimeters of mercury lower than those of participants who took a placebo. Systolic blood pressure is considered an accurate predictor of heart disease risk.
The reduction in blood pressure, says James de Lemos, a cardiologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and lead author of the study, is about what one would expect with a full dose of a blood pressure medication. As such, he said, the drug could be useful for people trying to control their blood pressure and reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke (although the study does not suggest that tirzepatide be replaced with other blood pressure medications).
But, he noted, it was not possible to distinguish the effect — if any — the drug had on blood pressure from the well-known effect that weight loss has on lowering blood pressure.
Benjamin Ansell, a blood pressure expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study, said he didn’t find the result surprising. “Additionally, one could also hypothesize that weight loss allowed for more exercise or improved sleep/reduced sleep apnea, either of which could additionally reduce blood pressure,” he said.
A more interesting effect of a drug in this class, Ansell noted, is the recent discovery that semaglutide helps patients with a condition known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction — a common result of obesity and high blood pressure. It is a chronic and progressive disease that is debilitating and destroys quality of life. Most patients with this type of heart failure are obese, and obesity is thought to contribute to the disease and its progression.
In a large study by Novo Nordisk, patients who took semaglutide had fewer disease symptoms and were able to exercise better, researchers found. This result, Ansell added, “showed profound clinical significance in improving function while reducing hospitalizations.”
And this finding adds to another result from Novo Nordisk showing that semaglutide reduced the risk of cardiac events such as heart attacks.
This article was originally published in The New York Times.