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Is tirzepatide available on the NHS?

Robbie Puddick
Written by

Robbie Puddick

Medically reviewed by

Fiona Moncrieff

5 min read
Last updated December 2023

Jump to: What is tirzepatide? | How do you qualify for a tirzepatide prescription? | How much does Mounjaro cost? | Can I buy Mounjaro in the UK? | Is tirzepatide available in the UK for weight loss? | Can I get tirzepatide if I don’t have diabetes? | Can I get Mounjaro over the counter? | Does tirzepatide have side effects?

If you’re living with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes, you’ll be able to get tirzepatide on the NHS by January 2024.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) announced on Friday, 8th September, that tirzepatide had been approved for treating individuals living with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes.

Tirzepatide is sold under the brand name Mounjaro and manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lily.

What is tirzepatide?

Tirzepatide (Mounjaro) is a dual-function medication for individuals living with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Tirzepatide is a GLP-1 receptor agonist and a glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) mimetic.

When we eat food, our gut releases a hormone that helps the body regulate hunger and blood sugar levels. This hormone is called GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1).

The actions of GLP-1 are the target of Mounjaro and other medications like Wegovy, Saxenda, and Ozempic.

This class of medications are known as GLP-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1s). They mimic the actions of the hormone GLP-1.

GLP-1s improve insulin function to lower blood sugar levels and delay gastric emptying, decreasing appetite. GLP-1s also communicate with the brain’s appetite control centre, the hypothalamus, to reduce food-seeking behaviour.

Additionally, GIP is a hormone released in response to food that helps regulate blood sugar levels and helps our fat cells ‘absorb’ more excess energy, preventing fat from being stored in the liver or pancreas.

GIP also has receptors in the brain, similar to GLP-1, and scientists believe it’s also involved in regulating appetite.

The medications that mimic GIP are known as GIP mimetics. These additional actions are the target of Mounjaro.

So, tirzepatide has a dual function that mimics two hormones in the body that support blood glucose levels and weight loss.

How do you qualify for a tirzepatide prescription?

To receive a tirzepatide prescription via the NHS in the UK, here are the eligibility criteria confirmed by NICE:

  • Triple therapy with metformin and 2 other oral antidiabetic drugs is ineffective, not tolerated or contraindicated, and
  • they have a body mass index (BMI) of 35 kg/m2 or more and specific psychological or other medical problems associated with obesity,
  • or they have a BMI of less than 35 kg/m2, and:
    • insulin therapy would have significant occupational implications, or
    • weight loss would benefit other significant obesity-related complications.

Lower BMI thresholds (usually reduced by 2.5 kg/m2) apply for people from South Asian, Chinese, other Asian, Middle Eastern, Black African or African-Caribbean family backgrounds.

How much does Mounjaro cost?

To purchase a prescription for Mounjaro via the NHS, you’ll only need to pay the base fee for a prescription of £9.95.

Mounjaro isn’t currently available via private prescription in the UK. However, the current retail cost for Mounjaro in the U.S. is around $1500 (£1231) a month.

Can I buy Mounjaro in the UK?

You can’t buy Mounjaro in the UK as it isn’t approved for private prescriptions yet. It’s only been approved for individuals living with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes and will only be available via the NHS.

However, it’s possible you’ll be able to buy Mounjaro in the UK in 2024, depending on the guidance outlined by NICE.

Is tirzepatide available in the UK for weight loss?

Tirzepatide isn’t available in the UK for weight loss. It’s only been approved as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, and it’s unlikely to be available for weight loss as an ‘off-label’ medication after the issues seen with Ozempic supply.

However, NICE is currently reviewing the use of tirzepatide for people living with obesity as a weight loss injection. The outcome of this review is expected by March 2024.

Can I get tirzepatide if I don’t have diabetes?

Tirzepatide has only been approved for people living with type 2 diabetes, so you can only get a prescription for Mounjaro if you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

If you’re looking for a weight-loss injection in the UK, there are only two options available as of September 2023:

  1. Semaglutide (Wegovy)
  2. Liraglutide (Saxenda)

Can I get Mounjaro over the counter?

Mounjaro will not be available over the counter in the UK, it will only be available via prescription.

Does tirzepatide have side effects?

All medications have potential side effects, and tirzepatide is no different. The most common side effects of Mounjaro (tirzepatide) are nausea, constipation, vomiting, and other symptoms affecting the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, like diarrhoea.

You might also experience less common side effects like tiredness or headaches.

These symptoms most commonly occur around the time of the injection, during dose escalation, and are typically transient and will ease after you’ve adapted to the medication.

However, everyone responds differently to these medications; some people won’t experience any side effects, while others will have to discontinue their medication due to the discomfort the side effects cause.

Not a magic pill

Weight loss injections are designed as additional tools for weight management interventions and shouldn’t be considered lifelong medications.

Instead, they should be used to help you kickstart your weight loss and healthy journey while you commit to living a healthier lifestyle.

Consider the use of antidepressants for people living with depression. They’re not designed to cure the condition. Instead, they’re designed to allow room for therapy to treat the underlying cause of the condition.

Mounjaro, and other weight loss injections, like Ozempic and Wegovy, are similar. They can allow you to make lifestyle changes to support long-term weight loss maintenance.

At Second Nature, we’ve been trusted by the NHS since 2017 to support people with type 2 diabetes and obesity to lose weight, manage their blood sugar levels, and lead healthier lifestyles for the long term.

Ideally, we’d lose weight without medication, and we’d recommend trying our weight-loss programme before trying a weight-loss injection, as it’s cheaper and potentially more sustainable in the long term.

In 2022, the NHS published data in the BMJ that compared the weight loss outcomes of five providers in the National Diabetes Prevention Programme.

Second Nature was more than twice as effective at supporting weight loss than the other four providers.

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