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FDA approves Eli Lilly drug tirzepatide for obesity

A pharmacist displays boxes of Ozempic, a semaglutide injection drug used for treating type 2 diabetes made by Novo Nordisk, at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on March 29, 2023.

George Frey | Reuters

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved Eli Lilly‘s blockbuster drug tirzepatide for the treatment of adults with obesity, paving the way for even wider use of the treatment in the U.S. 

The active ingredient in the drug, tirzepatide, has been approved for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes under the name Mounjaro since May 2022.

However, many patients have used the drug off-label for obesity, adding to a frenzy of demand for treatments that can cause significant weight loss, such as Novo Nordisk‘s Wegovy and Ozempic. All three drugs, which carry list prices of roughly $1,000 per month, have faced supply constraints for months due to soaring demand. 

Tirzepatide’s approval for obesity further establishes Eli Lilly as a formidable competitor to Novo Nordisk in the budding obesity drug market, which Wall Street analysts believe could grow to a $100 billion industry by 2030. The increased use of drugs has raised questions about how the changes will affect an array of industries — though it may be too early to tell how many people will use them.

The approval also comes as obesity affects an estimated 650 million adults globally and roughly 40% of the adult population in the U.S. 

Tirzepatide, works by activating two naturally produced hormones in the body: glucagon-like peptide-1, known as GLP-1, and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide, or GIP.

The combination is said to slow the emptying of the stomach, making people feel full for longer and suppressing appetite by slowing hunger signals in the brain.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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