Weight-Loss Drug Shows Promise in Treating Sleep Apnea, Studies Find

Written by Camilla Jessen

Apr.17 - 2024 6:15 PM CET

Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com
A new drug shows promise in treating sleep apnea.

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Eli Lilly has announced encouraging results from two late-stage trials where its weight-loss drug significantly reduced episodes of irregular breathing in patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

This development suggests that GLP-1 drugs, which include Lilly's Mounjaro and Novo Nordisk's Wegovy, might extend their benefits beyond just diabetes and weight management.

Promising Trial Results

In the trials, the active ingredient tirzepatide, found in both Zepbound for obesity and Mounjaro for type 2 diabetes, was tested.

In the first study, where patients were treated exclusively with tirzepatide, there was a 55% improvement in sleep apnea symptoms compared to a 5% improvement in those who received a placebo.

The second study combined the drug with continuous positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy, showing an average 62.8% reduction in breathing irregularities.

Obstructive sleep apnea, a condition marked by repeated breathing interruptions during sleep, affects approximately 1 billion people worldwide. It is typically managed with devices that maintain constant air pressure to prevent airway collapse, but no drugs are currently approved specifically for treating this condition.

Financial and Market Implications

The trial outcomes could potentially enhance Lilly's standing with U.S. government insurance coverage and open avenues to broaden the application of GLP-1 drugs. Lilly's stock responded positively to the news, rising 2.3% in premarket trading, with a 28% increase noted this year.

Lilly plans to present detailed results at an upcoming medical conference in June and will begin submitting data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory bodies in the middle of the year.

While detailed outcomes for secondary study goals like blood pressure improvements were not disclosed, the primary results are promising for those suffering from sleep apnea.

In response, shares of companies like Resmed and Inspire Medical, known for their sleep apnea treatments, saw declines in premarket trading.

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