Salem Radio Network News Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Health

Eli Lilly obesity drug now available in US pharmacies

By Patrick Wingrove and Manas Mishra

(Reuters) -Eli Lilly on Tuesday said its recently approved obesity treatment Zepbound is now available in U.S. pharmacies and could cost $550 a month for customers whose health insurance does not cover the drug, or half the list price.

Zepbound is the latest entrant to the fast-growing market for weight-loss drugs, which is forecast to grow to about $100 billion by the end of the decade.

Wall Street analysts expect sales of Zepbound to reach about $2 billion in 2024, and for sales of Novo Nordisk’s rival obesity drug Wegovy to hit around $7.5 billion.

Both medicines are GLP-1 agonists, a class originally designed to treat type 2 diabetes that have been shown to reduce food cravings and cause the stomach to empty more slowly.

Pfizer last week said it would not advance its highly-anticipated oral obesity drug danuglipron into late-stage clinical trials after most patients dropped out of a midstage trial with high rates of side effects such as nausea and vomiting.

Zepbound was shown in late-stage trials to help patients reduce their weight by an average of 20%, compared with 15% for Wegovy in separate Novo trials.

Lilly said Zepbound has been added to the U.S. list of preferred medicines for reimbursement by at least one major pharmacy benefit manager (PBM), Cigna’s Express Scripts, and will be added to Cigna’s commercial formularies on Dec. 15.

CVS Health’s Caremark, another large PBM, said it was still reviewing Zepbound to ensure it was clinically appropriate and cost-effective. United Health’s Optum Rx did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

PBMs, which negotiate drug prices for customers including large employers, create lists, or formularies, of medications covered by insurance and reimburse pharmacies for patients’ prescriptions.

Lilly said its commercial savings card program was now available at pharmacy chains. Under the program, Zepbound could cost as little as $25 for patients whose insurance covers the drug and $550 for those whose insurance does not.

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Zepbound in November, Lilly said it would launch after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.

Zepbound carries a list price of $1,059.87 a month compared with a list of $1,349 per-package for Novo’s Wegovy, which has been wildly popular this year.

Lilly’s obesity drug has the same active ingredient, tirzepatide, as its previously approved diabetes drug Mounjaro, which has been used off-label for weight loss since its 2022 launch.

Eli Lilly’s shares have surged 60% this year in the run-up to the introduction of Zepbound, making the Indianapolis-based drugmaker the 10th most valuable listed company by market capitalization and first among healthcare companies.

(Reporting by Patrick Wingrove in New York and Manas Mishra and Khushi Mandowara in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur, Alexander Smith and Bill Berkrot)

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