Eli Lilly's diabetes drug could revolutionize the US weight loss market

After a successful clinical trial, Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly seeks approval for its diabetes drug to get added to the U.S. weight loss market.
Kavita Verma
Eli Lilly seeks approval to add diabetes drug to US weight loss market
Eli Lilly seeks approval to add diabetes drug to US weight loss market after promising clinical trial

Lal Nallath 

On Thursday, Eli Lilly, a leading pharmaceutical company, revealed its plans to seek approval for Tirzepatide, a diabetes medication, to be added to the weight loss market in the U.S. The decision was based on a recent clinical trial that demonstrated encouraging results. Tirzepatide, currently authorized as Mounjaro for treating type 2 diabetes, is given via injection once a week.

Trial results

Over 900 participants who were overweight or obese and had type 2 diabetes were involved in a 72-week clinical trial conducted by Eli Lilly. The participants who received the highest dosage lost 15.7% of their body weight or 34.4 pounds (15.6 kilograms) on average, with mild to moderate gastrointestinal issues such as nausea and diarrhea being the most common side effects reported. 

Eli Lilly is expected to submit an application for approval to U.S. authorities in the coming weeks and expects regulatory action by late 2023. In a prior clinical trial on overweight and obese participants without diabetes, weight loss of around 21% was observed.

The gastrointestinal hormone GLP-1 is imitated by Tirzepatide, which activates receptors in the brain responsible for appetite regulation. The GLP-1 analogs are widely regarded by experts as a breakthrough since they cause much greater weight loss compared to existing drugs. Tirzepatide, originally approved in May 2022 in the U.S. for diabetes treatment, is already being prescribed by some doctors for weight loss. This presents a promising economic opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry, with approximately 40% of Americans believed to be obese. Morgan Stanley predicts that the global market for obesity treatments may reach $54 billion by 2030.

Competition and concerns

In the U.S., Novo Nordisk's Wegovy has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for weight loss and uses semaglutide, another GLP-1-mimicking drug. However, Ozempic, the company's diabetes drug, which also uses semaglutide, has been facing supply shortages and high costs, making it difficult for many people to obtain the drug.

There is concern among experts that some individuals who are not clearly overweight may use these drugs to shed a few pounds. Additionally, the drugs are intended for long-term use, and there is a risk of regaining weight once treatment is discontinued.

Eli Lilly's Tirzepatide drug may provide a novel treatment alternative for people battling obesity and type 2 diabetes. The company's application for approval is highly anticipated, and if approved, the drug could become a major contender in the weight loss industry. However, it is crucial to ensure that the drug is used properly and under medical supervision to attain sustainable weight loss outcomes in the long run.

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