Tirzepatide Side Effects

Tirzepatide is a new a medication for people with type 2 diabetes that, along with exercise and diet, can help improve blood glucose levels and manage weight. It’s a medication that is injected once a week and has been shown just as effective (or more) than insulin treatment. But there are some serious Tirzepatide side effects you should be aware of before taking this medication. We talk about how Tirzepatide works, the side effects and warnings, and other key things to consider when talking your doctor about whether Tirzepatide is an option for you.

What is Tirzepatide

Tirzepatide is generally prescribed to help with blood sugar control in adults with type 2 diabetes along with diet and exercise . It is not meant for people with type 1 diabetes.

It falls under a class of drugs called Glucagon-like Peptide-1 (GLP-1) and Glucose-dependent Insulinotropic Polypeptides Receptor (GIP-R) agonists. It’s injected just under the skin and taken once a week.

Mounjaro is a brand named of Tirzepatide and was FDA-approved in May 2022.

logo of mounjaro medication

How it Helps Blood Glucose Levels

GIP-R is a hormone in the intestine that, after eating, stimulates insulin release and also stimulates glucagon release when blood glucose is low.

GLP-1 is another hormone and stimulates insulin release and also reduces the release of glucagon. It also helps with feeling full during and between meals by triggering appetite centers in the brain and slowing the emptying in the stomach.

Tirzepatide is a GIP-R and GLP-1 agonist, meaning it simulates the two hormones, to help lower fasting and post-meal glucose levels, lowers glucagon levels, and enhance insulin secretion. It also helps decreases food intake and lowers body weight.

Warnings and Precautions

Tirzepatide is not recommended if you have:

  • a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma or thyroid tumors
  • multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (tumors in your glands)

Before taking Tirzepatice it’s important to tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • Pancreas problems
  • Kidney disease
  • Problems digesting food or slowed emptying of your stomach
  • Vision complications related to diabetes (diabetic retinopathy)

Tirzepatide Side Effects

Like other medications, Tirzepatide can have side effects occur that are both mild and serious.

Common Side Effects

Gastrointestinal (GI) issues like gas, burping, stomach pain, and acid reflux. Others side effects can also include diarrhea, decreased appetite, constipation, and vomiting.

Serious Side Effects

If your experience more serious side effects below, call your doctor immediately.

  • Allergic reactions: hives, light-headed, swelling of lips, tongue or throat, or harder to breathe.
  • Risk of Thyroid C-cell Tumors: a lump or swelling in your neck, hoarse voice, trouble swallowing, shortness of breath.
  • Acute Pancreatitis: severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back, nausea and vomiting.
  • Hypoglycemia: this is when blood sugar gets too low, particularly when you’re also taking insulin.
  • Kidney Injury: trouble urinating, swelling in ankles or feet, shortness of breath.
  • Severe GI Disease: problems with digesting food or stomach emptying.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy Issues: blurred vision or other changes related to diabetes.
  • Acute Gallbladder Disease: chalky-colored feces or severe upper belly pain.

Drug Interactions

Below are some of the drugs that can have adverse reactions with Tirzepatide and should be discussed with your doctor before taking Tirzepatide.

Insulin

Taking Tirzepatide while on insulin could increase the risk of hypoglycemia or low blood glucose. You doctor may lower the dose of the tirzepatide or insulin to reduce risk of hypoglycemia.

Symptoms of low blood glucose including feeling very hungry, dizzy, confused, irritable or shaky. Quickly treat this by eating or drink a fast-acting source of sugar (like fruit juice, crackers, or raisins) because severe hypoglycemia is a very serious condition.

Drugs with a Narrow Therapeutic Index

These are drugs that have a small range of doses that are effective without unwanted effects.

An example is Warfarin, which is a type of blood thinner and has very specific doses based on current blood levels.

Contraceptives

Tirzepatide can lower the effectiveness of birth control pills.

Ask your doctor about other non-oral birth control options. You may need to use an alternative birth control option for 4 weeks after starting Tirzepatide and for 4 weeks each time dosage is increased.

Dosing Information

Tirzepatide comes in a 0.5mL solution and doses of 2.5mg, 5mg, 7.5mg, 10mg, 12.5mg and 15mg.

Dosing Schedule

The starting dosage is recommended at 2.5 mg once a week. This starting dose is meant just for treatment initiation and not glycemic control.

After 4 weeks, your doctor will likely increase the dosage to 5 mg once a week.

But if additional glycemic control is needed, your doctor may increase dosage in 2.5 mg increments after at least 4 weeks on the current dose. The maximum dosage is 15 mg once a week.

What To Do With a Missed dose

If you a miss a dose, take it as soon as possible within 4 days (96 hours) after the missed dose.

But if it’s been more than 4 days, skip the missed dose and take the next dose on the regularly scheduled day.

In each case, you can resume the regular once-a-week dosing schedule. You can change the day when you take the dose if needed, but there must be at least 3 days (72 hours) between the two doses.

What to Do With an Overdose

Get medical attention right away and if needed, contact your local poison control.

Using Tirzepatide

Always follow all directions on the prescription label and instructions, and use the medicine exactly as directed by your healthcare provider. But below is general information on how Tirzepatide is used.

Tirzepatide is injected just under the skin using either a single-use injectable pen or prefilled syringes.

mounjaro injection pen
Mounjaro injectable pen

It’s taken once per week at any time of the day, with or without food. If if your dosing day changes, be sure to give at least 3 days between doses.

The solution should look clear and colorless or be slightly yellow. If it looks discolored or has particulates floating around, do not use and discard.

Injecting Tirzepatide

Generally, you can inject Tirzepatide and insulin in the same area but it should not be right next to each other. Do not mix Tirzepatide and insulin in the same injection.

Each prefilled syringe or injection pen is meant for single-use only. So throw away after one use even if there’s still medicine in the pen or syringe.

Injection Site

Tirzepatide should be injected in either in the abdomen, thigh, or upper arm. And rotate the injection site with each dose.

Repeated injections in the same area increase the chances of injection site reactions like redness, skin irritation, or thicker skin around the injection side.

Storage

Tirzepatide should be stored in the fridge and protected from direct sunlight light. It could be stored at room temperature before use for up to 21 days.

Do not freeze tirzepatide. Throw it away if it does become frozen.

Related Medications

Other drugs similar to Tirzepatide are Wegovy and Ozempic that use the ingredient Semaglutide, which is also GLP-1 analog.

Both Wegovy and Ozempic can help with weight loss but the big difference Ozempic is meant to help people with type 2 diabetes control blood glucose levels, while Wegovy is mean as an weight management medicine.

Summary

Taking Tirzepatide, along with proper diet and exercise, has been shown effective in improving glycemic control for people with type 2 diabetes and helps with weight loss. It’s a once a week injection that improves insulin secretion, lowers glucagon and decreases food intake.

But like all medications, there are both mild and serious Tirzepatide side effects. The more serious side effects are potential risks of thyroid c cell tumors, kidney problems, hypoglycemia and severe stomach problems.

So it’s important to always first talk to a health care professional about whether Tirzepatide could be an option for you. And while you’re taking it, pay attention to any symptoms of Tirzepatide side effects and keep up to date with routine monitoring.

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