Danish pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk changed the game last year, presenting data that suggested one of the company’s diabetes drugs was also highly effective at treating obesity as a medical issue. With that, Novo Nordisk sent a message to pharmaceutical companies everywhere: Obesity drugs could be the next frontier of life-changing medical innovations. Now, Eli Lilly has introduced a new obesity drug that shows great promise in Phase III trials. Read on to find out more about what this development means for the pharmaceutical industry.
What Sets Eli Lilly’s Obesity Drug Apart
As mentioned above, Novo Nordisk pioneered a fascinating breakthrough when the company proved that its diabetes drug could also address obesity. Competitor Innovent Biologics also recently debuted promising Phase II data for a GLP-1 receptor/glucagon receptor called mazdutide, which was shown to be effective in reducing trial participants’ body weights. Now, Eli Lilly is in the final stages of testing another obesity drug – this time, in an entirely different drug class than the Novo Nordisk and Innovent products. Eli Lilly’s drug is known as tirzepatide. Per USA Today, the drug “works on two naturally occurring hormones that help control blood sugar and are involved in sending fullness signals from the gut to the brain.”
Study results show that patients taking the drug “achieved superior weight loss compared to placebo at 72 weeks of treatment.” Specifically, 96 percent of people taking higher doses of tirzepatide (10 mg and 15 mg) achieved at least 5-percent body weight reductions. Finally, per the company, some participants lost as much as 22.5 percent of their body weight during the trial. Per industry resource Endpoints News, the study enrolled 2,539 participants and was the “first phase III global registration trial evaluating the efficacy and safety of tirzepatide in adults with obesity, or overweight with at least one comorbidity, who do not have diabetes.”
When Will the FDA Approve Eli Lilly’s Obesity Drug?
The trial data cited above proves extremely promising for tirzepatide, especially given the rapid approval process granted to Novo Nordisk’s competitor drug, semaglutide. Originally approved to treat diabetes, semaglutide recently won FDA green light status to treat obesity as well under the drug name Wegovy. Eli Lilly is doubtless hoping for a similarly speedy process, especially since, per EndPoints News, the “overall safety and tolerability profile of tirzepatide was similar to other incretin-based therapies approved for the treatment of obesity.” With these considerations in mind, Eli Lilly may well be en route to rapid approval.
Next Steps for Tirzepatide
Tirzepatide is already gaining international attention, with USA Today noting that the drug could be a “game-changer.” USA Today also cites Dr. Robert Gabbay, chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association, who notes that the drug provides the kind of stunning results previously limited to weight loss surgery. Eli Lilly spokespeople agree. “Tirzepatide is the first investigational medicine to deliver more than 20 percent weight loss on average in a phase III study, reinforcing our confidence in its potential to help people living with obesity,” said Jeff Emmick, MD, Ph.D., Eli Lilly’s vice president of product development. “Obesity is a chronic disease that requires effective treatment options, and Lilly is working relentlessly to support people with obesity and modernize how this disease is approached. We’re proud to research and develop potentially innovative treatments like tirzepatide, which helped nearly two-thirds of participants on the highest dose reduce their body weight by at least 20 percent in SURMOUNT-1.”
Ultimately, Eli Lilly’s success proves extremely promising for adults struggling with obesity, as well as medical providers searching for creative solutions. This may be just the beginning of an entirely new approach to obesity.
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