The weight loss drug industry faces a new challenger as Eli Lilly's new drug gets approval in China.


The weight loss market has become increasingly popular in recent years, and recently, Chinese regulators approved Eli Lilly's new weight loss drug.

Approval of Diabetes Drug in the Chinese Market

Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) announced on Tuesday that its diabetes drug tirzepatide has been approved by Chinese regulators, setting the stage for fierce competition with Danish rival Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO) in the crucial Asian market.

Performance of Novo Nordisk in the Chinese Market

Novo Nordisk’s popular diabetes drug Ozempic was approved in China in 2021. Last year, the company doubled its weekly injection sales in the Greater China region, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, reaching 4.8 billion Danish kroner (698 million USD).

Eli Lilly has not yet disclosed when it will begin selling tirzepatide in China or the quantity of doses that will be supplied. Tirzepatide is the active ingredient in the company’s diabetes drug Mounjaro and weight loss drug Zepbound.

Global Weight Loss Market Competition

Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk are racing to increase production to meet the demand in the global weight loss market, which is expected to reach at least $100 billion by the end of this century. Both companies' anti-obesity medications belong to a class initially developed for diabetes, known as GLP-1 receptor agonists.

GLP-1 drugs have been shown to help patients lose an average of up to 20% in weight, leading to unprecedented demand. Novo Nordisk expects its weight loss drug Wegovy to gain approval for sale in China this year, launching amidst limited supply. Experts estimate that China has the largest population of overweight or obese individuals in the world.

Last month, Eli Lilly raised its annual sales forecast by $2 billion due to surging demand. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that due to increased demand, most doses of Mounjaro and Zepbound will be limited in supply until the second quarter of this year. Mounjaro has been approved in the U.S. since 2022 for blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes patients, and Zepbound was approved for weight loss in the U.S. at the end of last year.

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