Semaglutide (Generic Wegovy/Ozempic) and Tirzepatide (Generic Mounjaro) are two medications that belong to a class of drugs known as incretin mimetics. These drugs are specifically designed to help manage type 2 diabetes and weight in individuals who also have obesity. While both Semaglutide and Tirzepatide share this common purpose, they do have important distinctions in terms of their mechanism of action, effectiveness for weight loss, legality, and cost. In this article, we will cover the differences between these two compounds to help you better understand which drug is right for you.
Comparing Semaglutide and Tirzepatide’s Mechanism of Action
Both Semaglutide and Tirzepatide are classified as incretin memetics, meaning that they mimic the insulin-releasing hormones in your body that are missing or lacking in those with type 2 diabetes or obesity. However, there are some key distinctions between these two drugs in how they trigger insulin release.
Semaglutide’s Mechanism Of Action
The mechanism of action of semaglutide revolves around its ability to mimic the action of a naturally occurring hormone in the body called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). GLP-1 is released by the intestine in response to food intake and plays a vital role in regulating blood sugar levels.
When semaglutide is injected or taken orally, it binds to and activates GLP-1 receptors in various tissues, including the pancreas, liver, and brain. By activating these receptors, semaglutide exerts several beneficial effects:
Insulin secretion: Semaglutide stimulates the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar by promoting the uptake of glucose from the bloodstream into cells.
Glucagon suppression: Semaglutide also suppresses the production and release of glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that raises blood sugar levels by stimulating the liver to release stored glucose. By inhibiting glucagon release, semaglutide helps lower blood sugar levels.
Delayed gastric emptying: Semaglutide slows down the emptying of food from the stomach into the small intestine. This delay in gastric emptying helps regulate the absorption of glucose from food and prevents rapid spikes in blood sugar levels after meals.
Appetite control: Semaglutide acts on the brain to reduce appetite and increase feelings of fullness, which can help with weight management in individuals with obesity.
By combining these effects, semaglutide helps to improve glucose control, reduce HbA1c levels (a marker of long-term blood sugar control), and promote weight loss.
Tirzepatides Mechanism of Action
The mechanism of action of Tirzepatide is a bit different than Semaglutide as it involves an interaction with two important receptors in the body: the GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) receptor and the GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide) receptor.
When Tirzepatide is administered, it acts as an agonist, or activator, for both the GLP-1 and GIP receptors. These receptors are normally activated by the naturally occurring incretin hormones produced in the body, which play a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels.
By binding to the GLP-1 receptor, Tirzepatide enhances the release of insulin from pancreatic beta cells. Insulin is a hormone that helps lower blood glucose levels by facilitating the uptake of glucose into cells and promoting its storage in the liver and muscles.
Additionally, the activation of the GIP receptor by Tirzepatide stimulates the release of insulin and inhibits the production of glucagon. Glucagon is another hormone involved in glucose regulation, but it has the opposite effect of insulin, as it raises blood glucose levels by promoting the release of stored glucose from the liver.
Through its dual action on the GLP-1 and GIP receptors, Tirzepatide enhances the body’s insulin response, suppresses glucagon production, and helps regulate blood sugar levels more effectively in individuals with type 2 diabetes. This mechanism of action can contribute to improved glycemic control, weight loss, and potentially other metabolic benefits.
Overall, while both semaglutide and Tirzepatide are GLP-1 receptor agonists, Tirzepatide has the added benefit of activating the GIP receptor. This dual action of Tirzepatide provides a potentially more robust insulin response, greater suppression of glucagon, and enhanced weight loss effects compared to semaglutide. However, it’s important to note that individual responses may vary, and consulting with a healthcare professional is essential to determine the most suitable treatment approach for each person.
Comparing the effectiveness of Semaglutide and Tirzepatide
Semaglutide and Weight Loss
In a study, participants who took 2.4 mg of semaglutide weekly lost an average of 14.9% of their body weight over 68 weeks. It was found to be more effective than other GLP-1 receptor agonists for weight loss.
Tirzepatide and Weight Loss
In a study, participants taking Tirzepatide achieved average weight reductions of 15% over a period of 72 weeks. Although it should be noted that individuals who received higher dosages achieved higher levels of weight loss, with those in the highest dose class (15mg) losing up to 20% of their body weight.
So, when it comes to the effectiveness of weight loss for these two drugs, the results are strikingly similar. Although the Tirzepatide study showed slightly more weight loss, it was also run for an additional month, meaning that the actual difference here is negligible.
Additionally, it should be noted that weight loss and fat loss are not the same thing. These studies measured the total loss of body weight. GLP-1 agonists like Semaglutide and Tirzepatide may result in the loss of muscle and bone tissue over time due to a decrease in nutrient intake. In order to combat these effects, it is essential to sustain a balanced diet while taking these drugs.
Legality of Semaglutide and Tirzepatide
Currently, only Semaglutide is approved by the FDA for both weight loss and the treatment of type 2 diabetes under the name Wegovy. At the time of writing this article, Tirzepatide is only approved in the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes but is in late-stage trials for obesity and is expected to be approved by the end of 2023.
However, this does not mean that Tirzepatide cannot be used for weight loss. “Off-label” use is commonly utilized by medical professionals to prescribe drugs other than what they are officially OK’d for by the FDA.
So, if you want to use Tirzepatide for weight loss, simply speak with a medical professional about off-label use.
Comparing the Cost Of Semaglutide and Tirzepatide
Semaglutide and Tirzepatide are not cheap weight loss solutions. However, semaglutide may provide a more financially beneficial solution.
Without insurance coverage, semaglutide will cost the average person between $800-$1000 per month. However, with insurance coverage, the price may be as low as $25 a month.
Tirzepatide, on the other hand, is a bit more expensive, with the average monthly cost coming in at a bare minimum of $1,000 a month for the lowest dosage option. Although, similar to Semaglutide, patients who qualify for coverage may pay as low as $25 a month.
It should be noted that since Tirzepatide is not yet approved for the treatment of obesity, obtaining coverage may be more difficult.
Semaglutide and Tirzepatide are both effective options for weight loss, and they share many similarities as compounds. However, there is an essential difference in their approval status for weight loss treatment and potential cost considerations.
Semaglutide, marketed under the brand name Wegovy, has received regulatory approval specifically for the treatment of obesity and weight management. It has demonstrated significant efficacy in clinical trials, with individuals experiencing substantial weight loss when combined with lifestyle modifications. Semaglutide’s weight loss effect is attributed to its ability to increase satiety, reduce appetite, and slow down gastric emptying.
Semaglutide may also be more cost-effective, although this can vary depending on individual circumstances.