Weight-loss drugs inch closer to coverage

Just when we thought weight-loss drug makers had hit their peak, a new study's findings show that they’re just getting started. 

What happened: Novo Nordisk’s blockbuster obesity drug WeGovy not only helps people lose weight but cuts the risk of heart attacks or strokes by 20%, according to the findings of a company-funded study. Sales were already up 25% in the first three months of 2023. 

  • The full results have not yet been shared or peer-reviewed, but shares in the Danish company and its rival Eli Lilly still surged yesterday by 17% and 15%, respectively. 

Why it matters: A proven heart-health benefit could one day ensure these drugs are covered by public health systems and private insurers. In the US, many insurers don’t cover them for weight loss, citing high costs and sheer number of people who qualify to take them. 

  • According to the World Health Organization, global obesity rates have almost tripled over the past decade (and therefore have increased the overall risk of heart disease). 
  • One analyst told the Financial Times that the benefits demonstrated by the trial now make it “unethical” for payers not to cover these potentially life-saving medications. 

Bottom line: The companies leading development around new types of obesity drugs are racing to secure their share of a market that could one day be worth at least US$100 billion annually. Back in June, Eli Lilly reported it’s making progress on an even stronger drug.—SB