Major Breakthrough in Sleep Apnea Treatment with Tirzepatide

Eli Lilly has announced promising results from the SURMOUNT-OSA phase 3 clinical trials for tirzepatide, a drug currently known for weight management under the brand name of Mounjaro internationally. The trials revealed that tirzepatide significantly reduces the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) by up to 63%, translating to about 30 fewer breathing interruptions per hour, and demonstrated a remarkable ability to decrease body weight by nearly 20%. These findings are particularly significant given that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition linked to numerous health issues including heart disease and diabetes, affects an estimated 80 million adults in the U.S., with a majority remaining undiagnosed. Tirzepatide’s dual benefits in treating both the symptoms and underlying causes of OSA offer a new hope in improving the quality of life for those with moderate-to-severe OSA and obesity.

63% reduction in apnea-hypopnea index

The study has shown that tirzepatide can dramatically reduce the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) by up to 63%. This index measures the severity of sleep apnea by recording the number of times breathing is partially or completely blocked during sleep. Specifically, the trials demonstrated a reduction of about 30 events per hour, highlighting tirzepatide's potential to significantly alleviate the conditions of those suffering from moderate-to-severe OSA.

SURMOUNT-OSA’s results were striking. In adults not using positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy, tirzepatide led to a mean AHI reduction of 55.0% after one year, compared to just 5.0% with a placebo. Not only did it improve breathing patterns during sleep, but it also significantly reduced body weight by 18.1% from baseline, offering a dual benefit to patients. A similar trend was observed in patients who continued using PAP therapy, with tirzepatide achieving a mean AHI reduction of 62.8% and a body weight reduction of 20.1%.

OSA - more than just poor sleep

This is particularly noteworthy as OSA affects an estimated 80 million adults in the U.S. alone, with a vast majority remaining undiagnosed and untreated. OSA is not just a matter of poor sleep — it's associated with serious health issues such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The potential of tirzepatide to treat the underlying causes of OSA, rather than just managing symptoms, marks it as a pioneering approach in the realm of sleep-related healthcare.

As we look forward to the global regulatory review of these findings, the future for those affected by OSA and obesity looks a little brighter. The impact of tirzepatide could extend well beyond just weight management, offering hope and improved quality of life to millions potentially suffering in silence.

Published: 17 April 2024