A New Option to Treat Sleep Apnea: Weight-Loss Drugs – The New York Times

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New research showed that tirzepatide, the compound in Zepbound, improved symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.

Reporting from the American Diabetes Association conference in Orlando, Fla.
Sue Clasen kept trying to manage her sleep apnea. She knew a CPAP machine would help her breathe through the night, but none of the masks she wore with it were comfortable enough to actually fall asleep. She bought a special hanger to hold the machine’s hose so she wouldn’t get tangled up in it. She found a pillow with cutouts to cradle the mask. Some nights, she woke up feeling as if she were drowning in the air that streamed out of the machine.
Ms. Clasen, 49, remembers one night a few years ago when she, her husband and her three children were sharing a hotel room. The CPAP’s mask felt bulky and irritating — she just couldn’t sleep with it on. But when she took it off and fell asleep, her husband soon nudged her awake: Her snoring, a common symptom of sleep apnea, was so loud it woke the whole room up.
But since Ms. Clasen started taking Ozempic in February 2023 to lose weight, she has stopped snoring. She no longer needs to nap throughout the day. The worst of her sleep apnea symptoms have vanished.
More Americans with obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of the disorder, may soon turn to weight-loss drugs.
Two major new clinical trials showed that tirzepatide, which is in the same class of medications as Ozempic and is sold under the brand names Mounjaro and Zepbound, significantly improved symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea in people with obesity. The results were published Friday in a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at an American Diabetes Association conference in Orlando, Fla. Eli Lilly, which makes tirzepatide and funded the studies, said it had asked the Food and Drug Administration to broaden the use of the Zepbound to include obstructive sleep apnea.
If approved, it would become the first drug specifically cleared to treat the condition, and would give patients another option for managing their sleep apnea. And those who have already seen their symptoms improve after losing weight on similar drugs say the impact has been transformative.
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