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Lilly Updates Open Letter Regarding the Use of Tirzepatide for Cosmetic Weight Loss


Eli Lilly continues to emphasize the potential harm that could come with using GLP-1 receptor agonists for off-label purposes.

Tirzepatide for Type 2 diabetes, kit concept medical illustration, showing injection devices and the new drug. Image Credit: Adobe Stock Images/Josh

Image Credit: Adobe Stock Images/Josh

Back in January, Eli Lilly penned an open letter to the public regarding the use of Mounjaro and Zepbound (tirzepatide) for weight loss. Today, the company updated the letter, further warning the public that these medications should only be used for their FDA-approved indications. Mounjaro is specifically indicated as an addendum to diet and exercise to improve glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Zepbound is indicated for adults struggling with obesity or other weight issues, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, obstructive sleep apnea, and cardiovascular disease, requiring low-calorie diets and increased physical activity.1,2

“Mounjaro and Zepbound should only be used when prescribed by a licensed healthcare professional,” the letter states. “Patients should consult with their healthcare providers to determine whether Mounjaro or Zepbound is right for them. Mounjaro and Zepbound have not been studied in patients with severe gastrointestinal disease, including severe gastroparesis, and are therefore not recommended in these patients.”

Lilly additionally warned against the use of these products for individuals under the age of 18 years, citing that while clinical trials are ongoing, the safety and efficacy of tirzepatide have not been established in younger patients.

Included in the letter are adverse effects (AEs) associated with both medications. AEs for Mounjaro include:

  • Thyroid tumors
  • Inflammation of the pancreas
  • Low blood sugar
  • Serious allergic reactions
  • Stomach problems
  • Changes in vision
  • Problems with gallbladder

Individuals on Zepbound may experience the same AEs in addition to changes in vision for patients with type 2 diabetes, and depression or thoughts of suicide.2

As the hype and demand for these drugs grow, Lilly has pushed back against what USA Today calls “Hollywood obsession” with weight loss drugs. Last month, the company released a video on YouTube, titled Big Night, calling out show business for glorifying tirzepatide medications for the wrong reasons.3

“Some people have been using medicine never meant for them,” a voiceover says in the video. “For the smaller dress or tux, for a big night, for vanity. But that’s not the point. People whose health is affected by obesity are the reasons we work on these medications. It matters who gets them.”4

Earlier this week, Lilly released an addition clip, titled Shame. This video, filmed in black and white, focuses on the issue of body shaming and takes a positive spin towards gaining health as opposed to losing weight. It was released during Obesity Care Week, aiming to continue dialogue regarding obesity as a serious medical condition and that there should be no shame associated with it.5,6

"These new films showcase our point of view around obesity—emphasizing our commitment to patients by highlighting the seriousness of this disease and the appropriate use of anti-obesity medicines," said Jennifer Oleksiw, global chief customer officer, Eli Lilly, in a press release. "The overall Lilly Get Better campaign is aimed at showing who we are—a medicine company that turns science into healing—since many people may not know us beyond our individual medicines."


1. Lilly Pens Open Letter Raising Concerns Regarding Use of Mounjaro for Cosmetic Weight Loss. Pharmaceutical Executive. January 4, 2024. Accessed March 7, 2024. https://www.pharmexec.com/view/lilly-pens-open-letter-raising-concerns-regarding-use-of-mounjaro-for-cosmetic-weight-loss

2. Open Letter Regarding the Use of Mounjaro® (tirzepatide) and Zepbound® (tirzepatide). Lilly. March 7, 2024. Accessed March 7, 2024. https://investor.lilly.com/news-releases/news-release-details/open-letter-regarding-use-mounjaror-tirzepatide-and-zepboundr

3. 'Let's get serious': Eli Lilly slams Hollywood's Ozempic obsession ahead of Oscars. USA Today. March 7, 2024. Accessed March 7, 2024. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2024/03/07/eli-lilly-slams-ozempic-obsession-hollywood/72851502007/

4. Big Night. YouTube. February 24, 2024. Accessed March 7, 2024. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQWk-Q3tmkE

5. Shame. YouTube. March 5, 2024. Accessed March 7, 2024. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZ3Dt74R4ak

6. Lilly's Newest Phase of Get Better Campaign Challenges Misperceptions About Obesity Care. PR Newswire. March 7, 2024. Accessed March 7, 2024. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/lillys-newest-phase-of-get-better-campaign-challenges-misperceptions-about-obesity-care-302082242.html

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