Eli Lilly, the US pharmaceutical company, has announced that it will seek regulatory approval for its obesity drug, Tirzepatide, following promising trial results that showed the drug can help people lose almost 16% of their body weight. The drug was approved last year by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the brand name Mounjaro to treat type-2 diabetes. Eli Lilly now intends to target the fast-growing market for weight-loss treatments by seeking approval to market Tirzepatide as an obesity drug.
The rising concern about Obesity
The increasing prevalence of obesity, particularly in the US, has driven demand for treatments, with two in five Americans suffering from the condition. Social media endorsements by celebrities have also boosted demand for new drugs. Pharmaceutical companies are racing to develop a new generation of drugs to tackle the obesity crisis, with Lilly’s Tirzepatide showing promising results in its trial.
How it helps with Diabetes
Tirzepatide is administered once a week by injection, suppressing appetite and increasing energy expenditure. In the trial, a high dose of the drug helped overweight and obese people with type 2 diabetes to lose an average of 15.6 kilograms (almost 16% of their body weight) over almost 17 months. The drug achieved sales of almost $500 million last year, and Lilly has upgraded its 2023 profit forecasts because of strong demand for the diabetes drug. Analysts predict that if Tirzepatide is approved for use in treating obesity, it could become the highest-selling drug of all time, with annual peak sales estimates reaching as high as $50bn.
A challenging task
Lilly and other pharmaceutical companies face the challenge of convincing public and private insurers to fund their obesity drugs, despite arguing that complications caused by obesity can be more expensive in the long run. Novo Nordisk’s obesity drug, Wegovy, is currently the only other drug approved to treat obesity. Analysts believe that Tirzepatide is the best injectable option for weight loss, and rapid uptake is expected due to Lilly’s investment in manufacturing. Shares in Lilly rose by almost 4% following the announcement.
Eli Lilly plans to complete its submission for approval of Tirzepatide for obesity in the coming weeks and expects a decision by the FDA as early as late 2023. If approved, the drug could be a game-changer in the fight against obesity, with the potential to become a blockbuster treatment for a growing health crisis affecting millions worldwide.