Tirzepatide, a dual GIP and GLP1 receptor agonist, was approved in the United States in 2022 for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Later in 2022, researchers discovered that Tirzepatide is also effective in improving obesity, with its safety confirmed in clinical studies, leading to its approval as an anti-obesity medication.

Now, recent studies suggest that Tirzepatide may have a significant effect on obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSA). OSA is a disorder characterized by irregular breathing during sleep, which not only causes sleep problems but can also lead to severe cardiovascular complications. This condition is common and has a substantial impact on over 900 million people worldwide, with 40% suffering from moderate to severe forms. OSA is caused by the repetitive collapse of the throat during sleep, resulting in breathing pauses and hypopnea, which in turn lead to hypoxemia, hypercapnia, and frequent awakenings. These disruptions in sleep quality cause patients to experience excessive daytime sleepiness, severely affecting their daily lives.

The current treatments for OSA focus primarily on mechanical support during sleep, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which helps improve the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) and reduce related symptoms. However, wearing a breathing mask at night can significantly impact sleep quality, leading to poor treatment adherence. Surgical interventions are also available to alleviate airway obstruction in OSA patients, but these are only effective for a subset of patients and cannot be considered a universal treatment approach.

On June 21, an article titled "Tirzepatide for the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Obesity" published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), introduced the possibility of targeted drug therapy for OSA in the near future, in addition to surgery and mechanical treatments.

Researchers conducted two-phase trials involving a total of 350 patients. Based on the analysis of 52-week data from these patients, Tirzepatide significantly reduced the AHI, body weight, hypoxemia burden, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) levels, and systolic blood pressure, while also improving patient-reported outcomes related to sleep.

It is remarkable that a drug initially developed to treat diabetes was found to have significant effects on weight loss and, more recently, on improving OSA. Researchers are confident that Tirzepatide will receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this new indication. The company behind this medication also announced plans to launch Tirzepatide for the treatment of OSA by early 2025.

The potential introduction of this drug has created a buzz in the medical community and had a notable impact on the stock market. Prior to this development, the standard treatment for OSA primarily involved CPAP therapy. On the Monday following the announcement, shares of ResMed, a leading manufacturer of CPAP devices, fell by about 11%. Similarly, shares of Inspire Medical Systems, a company that manufactures implantable devices for sleep apnea, dropped by 17%.

The discovery of Tirzepatide's effectiveness in treating OSA is a significant breakthrough that could revolutionize the management of this condition. While the results are promising, further research is needed to optimize the drug's administration and confirm its long-term efficacy and safety in a broader patient population. The medical community eagerly anticipates the upcoming developments and the potential impact of Tirzepatide on the treatment landscape for OSA.


Tirzepatide for the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Obesity;Atul Malhotra, M.D., Ronald R. Grunstein, M.D., Ph.D., Ingo Fietze, M.D., Terri E. Weaver, Ph.D., Susan Redline, M.D., M.P.H., Ali Azarbarzin, Ph.D., Scott A. Sands, Ph.D.,for the SURMOUNT-OSA Investigators Author Info & Affiliations Published June 21, 2024;DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa24048.