Paris: The miracle cure against obesity? A new generation of drugs for weight loss brings hope to many to fight this global health disaster, from which labs and investors are already making huge profits.
Obesity is a long-term risk factor for complications such as heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and COVID-19. It’s hard to treat, it’s expensive for health systems. Its causes are not only related to lifestyle but can also be influenced by genetics.
If prevention and medical care are not improved, the World Obesity Federation estimates that by 2035, half (51%) of the world’s population will be overweight or obese. And according to their calculations, the global economic impact would be just as devastating: it could exceed $4 trillion per year.
From the first generation of weight loss treatments developed until the 1960s, obesity rates have increased steadily and research has progressed significantly.
In addition to being effective against diabetes, the recent family of anti-obesity drugs leads to much greater weight loss with less severe side effects (nausea, diarrhea) than the drugs available until now. It also shows benefits on cardiovascular risks.
This therapeutic class mimics a hormone (GLP-1) secreted by the intestines to signal the brain to feel full after eating a meal.
The champions in this segment, American Eli Lilly and Danish Novo Nordisk, saw their sales rise in the second quarter thanks to their increasingly popular molecules to stimulate weight loss. Stock market investors appreciated fiercely.
Eli Lilly scored a point in late April when it confirmed that its anti-diabetic blockbuster, marketed as Monjaro (tirzepetide), also contributed to weight loss (more than 15%). Was.
Given the size of the market – 40% of adults in the United States are obese – by the end of the year a commercial by the American Agency for Drugs (FDA) will be a potential green signal from Monjaro, this time against obesity, for the group Boon. Its Monjaro sales reached $1 billion in the second quarter alone.
“This therapy is likely to prove a popular alternative to bariatric surgery, as Monjaro causes comparable weight loss,” said Akash Patel, pharmaceutical analyst at GlobalData.
a strong demand
For Novo Nordisk, the future looks just as bright: This week, a study showed that its obesity treatment Vegovy (semaglutide), sales of which more than quadrupled in the second quarter, reduced the risk of a cardio-vascular accident. .
That’s potentially enough to persuade insurers across the Atlantic to cover these treatments that respond to real health problems, not just a desire to lose weight.
But “one of the main barriers to patient access to GLP-1 drugs is cost,” notes the American Association of Pharmacists, however, noting that monitoring of obesity should be done over a longer period of time.
This once-weekly subcutaneous injection costs more than $10,000 per year.
According to experts, one way to reduce this cost as well as make the drug easier to take would be to develop pills to be swallowed every day. A path on which Novo Nordisk is well ahead in its clinical studies.
Eli Lilly and its compatriot Pfizer are also looking at developing this type of oral solution.
The risks are high: According to Morgan Stanley, the global obesity treatment market could reach $54 billion by 2030.
Investors know this: The stock market’s Obesity Index (Solactive Obesity Index), which tracks the performance of companies deployed in services for obese people, is up from $100 in early 2011 to $448 (as of 08/11/2023) doing business on.