Study Finds Diabetes and Obesity Drugs Zepbound and Mounjaro Effective in Treating Severe Sleep Apnea

A recent study has shown that Tirzepatide, the active medication in Zepbound and Mounjaro, can help reduce the severity of sleep apnea. These drugs not only aid in weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, and blood pressure but also improve various other health measures.

Sleep apnea is a disorder where an individual’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. The National Health Services (NHS) defines sleep apnea as “when your breathing stops and starts while you sleep. The most common type is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Sleep apnea needs to be treated because it can lead to more serious problems.”

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved 500 participants diagnosed with obesity and sleep apnea. Half of the participants used a CPAP machine, which provides oxygen through a mask to keep airways open during sleep, while the other half could not tolerate the CPAP machine.

Results showed that patients in both groups who took weekly injections of Tirzepatide experienced a reduction in the number of episodes per hour where their breathing slowed or stopped completely during sleep by about half to nearly 60%, compared to about 10% in those who received a placebo, according to a report by NBC News. Additionally, those who took Tirzepatide lost nearly 18% to 20% of their body weight, had improvements in blood pressure, and reduced episodes of blood oxygen drops during sleep. Patients also reported better sleep quality and fewer sleep disturbances.

Dr. Atul Malhotra, the lead author and a sleep medicine specialist at the University of California, San Diego, described Tirzepatide as “a more effective knife in the drawer.” However, in an accompanying editorial, Dr. Sanjay Patel, a sleep medicine specialist at the University of Pittsburgh, noted that the real-world effectiveness of Tirzepatide for treating sleep apnea remains uncertain due to measurement methods. He also mentioned that cost and accessibility could pose challenges, potentially exacerbating racial and other disparities in addressing sleep apnea.

Common signs of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud Snoring: Persistent and loud snoring, especially with periods of silence followed by gasping or choking, can indicate obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Gasping or Choking During Sleep: Frequent episodes of gasping, choking, or snorting during sleep suggest that the airway is blocked.
  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness: Feeling extremely sleepy during the day, even after a full night’s sleep, may signal frequent sleep disruption.
  • Insomnia or Difficulty Staying Asleep: Waking up frequently or having difficulty staying asleep can indicate interrupted breathing during the night.
  • Irritability and Mood Changes: Chronic sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea can lead to mood swings, irritability, and even depression.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Reduced oxygen levels and poor sleep can impair cognitive functions, making it difficult to concentrate, remember things, or make decisions.
  • Morning Headaches: Waking up with headaches can result from poor oxygen levels and disrupted sleep.
  • High Blood Pressure: Sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure due to stress on the cardiovascular system from low oxygen levels.
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