The Weight-Loss Gold Rush
A Race to Develop Blockbuster Obesity Drugs
Why it matters:
The weight-loss market is booming, and drug companies are rushing to develop new treatments. This is due in part to the success of Novo Nordisk's Wegovy and Ozempic, which have soared in popularity despite high price tags, mixed insurance coverage, and a number of unpleasant side effects.
The market is expected to top $100 billion by 2030, and it is ripe for new entrants, as drugmakers struggle to keep up with demand. Should Medicare ultimately cover weight-loss drugs, that would take things to another order of magnitude.
Swiss drugmaker Roche recently entered the race with a $2.7 billion acquisition of the California-based biotech Carmot Therapeutics. The deal gives Roche access to two obesity drug candidates.
The big picture:
Roche's acquisition of Carmot is just the latest deal by a big drugmaker to add a weight-loss candidate to its development arsenal. AstraZeneca last month paid $185 million to acquire global development rights for an experimental GLP-1 pill from Chinese biotech Eccogene, with up to $1.8 billion more promised if it meets clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestones.
What is GLP-1?
GLP-1 is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. It also has been shown to suppress appetite and increase energy expenditure. GLP-1 agonists are a type of drug that mimics the effects of GLP-1.
What other companies are developing weight-loss drugs?
Eli Lilly, which last month became the second company to gain approval for a weight-loss drug, in July announced a deal worth up to $1.9 billion to acquire obesity drugmaker Versanis. Versanis is developing a drug that works differently from the appetite-suppressing GLP-1s.
Novo has also continued to acquire biotechs with obesity targets, including Embark Biotech in August.
What are the challenges of developing weight-loss drugs?
Developing weight-loss drugs is a complex and challenging process.
There are few targets for weight-loss drugs that have been validated in clinical trials.
Weight loss drugs often have side effects, which can make it difficult to get them approved by regulators.
Weight loss drugs can be expensive to develop and manufacture.
Despite the challenges, the potential rewards of developing a successful weight-loss drug are immense. The weight-loss market is large and growing, and there is a significant unmet need for effective treatments.
The future of weight-loss drugs:
The future of weight-loss drugs is bright. With more companies investing in research and development, there is a good chance that new and effective treatments will be available in the years to come.
Here are some of the trends that are likely to shape the future of weight-loss drugs:
A focus on combination therapies that target multiple mechanisms of action
The development of long-acting injectables that require less frequent dosing
The use of digital health tools to improve patient adherence and outcomes
It is an exciting time to be in the field of weight-loss drug development. With so much innovation happening, it is likely that we will see significant advances in the years to come.