More News Points to Explosive Growth for GLP-1 Medicines

Strangled by GrowthLet’s be clear from the start. Hype about “weight loss” drugs is exquisitely unhelpful. This is because weight loss is only an acute effect of new medicines that act on GLP-1 receptors and related pathways that influence obesity. The real need for these medicines is to control a whole range of chronic health problems that result from uncontrolled obesity. And the news on several fronts is making it clear that their medical value will fuel explosive growth in demand for GLP-1 medicines in the foreseeable future.

Dollars Rolling In

In this last week alone, Both Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk have announced sales results for these medicines that add up to many billions of dollars.  Lilly launched the Mounjaro brand of tirzepatide in June of 2022. In the fourth quarter of 2023, barely more than a year later, sales reached $2.2 billion for just those three months. Launched in December, the Zepbound brand of the same drug targeted for obesity is poised to sell at a rate of more than $20 billion annually by 2030.

Already, in 2023, sales of semaglutide by Novo Nordisk totalled roughly $18 billion under both the Ozempic (for diabetes) and Wegovy (for obesity) brands.

Make no mistake, the demand for GLP-1 medicines to treat obesity and related metabolic diseases is fuelling explosive growth.

Signs of Tirzepatide Effectiveness in MASH

Along with the sales results Lilly presented yesterday came news on tirzeptide for MASH. A phase 2 study suggests tirzepatide may be effective for treating this condition. MASH is now the acronym for what used to be know as NASH. It’s a serious and growing form of liver disease that results from obesity.

After 52 weeks of treatment with tirzepatide, up to 74% of MASH patients achieved an absence of MASH. This compares to only 13% on placebo getting the same outcome. Patients receiving tirzepatide saw no worsening of liver fibrosis.

Will Supplies Catch or Keep Up?

This and more news about demand for these drugs, as well as their medical value, points to a big question. Will the manufacturing capacity of Lilly and Novo Nordisk catch up and keep up?

Novo is busy buying capacity, having already already been humbled by their inability to produce adequate supplies.

Lilly, which had been projecting confidence in their ability to meet demand, is sounding a little more cautious. CEO David Ricks said yesterday:

“There’s not an infinite number of people who know how to set them up. And the supply chain for the machines that make the products is also constrained. So at this point, I don’t think there’s an easy way forward.”

These companies have a tiger by the tail. The unmet demand for better treatment of obesity and related metabolic diseases is so great that it is hard to quantify. Explosive growth will continue and it will bring pressure for prices to come down.

Great changes are unfolding before our eyes.

Click here for more on Lilly’s Q4 results, here for more on the results from Novo, here for more on Tirzepatide in MASH, and here for a rundown of the supply situation.

Strangled by Growth, painting by Emily Carr / WikiArt

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February 7, 2024