ADA: Eli Lilly's stellar tirzepatide weight loss data tee up showdown with Novo Nordisk's Wegovy, analysts say

Eli Lilly, just weeks after snaring approval for dual GIP/GLP-1 med Mounjaro in Type 2 diabetes, is trumpeting its case for the nascent blockbuster in weight loss. The data likely portend a clash with Novo Nordisk’s obesity stalwart Wegovy, one group of analysts argues.

In the phase 3 SURMOUNT-1 trial, Lilly’s Mounjaro, also known as tirzepatide, met both its primary endpoints—helping patients chart a superior mean percent change in body weight from baseline as well as helping a greater percentage of patients hit at least 5% body weight reduction versus placebo—Lilly said Saturday at the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA's) annual meeting in New Orleans.  

Digging deeper into the data, patients on 5-mg tirzepatide saw average weight reductions of 16%. For patients on the 10-mg dose, that figure climbed to 21.4%—or about 49 pounds—and on 15 mgs, patients hit average weight loss of 22.5%, which equates to about 52 pounds, Lilly said in a release.

Further, 89% of patients on the low dose of the Lilly med and 96% on the higher doses achieved at least 5% weight loss versus just 28% of patients in the placebo cohort.

Based on the weight loss curves shown, weight loss on the 10-mg and 15-mg doses “had not even completely plateaued at 72 weeks,” which suggests patients could achieve even greater results with longer treatment duration, SVB Securities Research analysts wrote in a recent note to clients.

The analysts continue to believe consensus estimates underappreciate tirzepatide’s sales potential, which the SVB team thinks could hit $14.1 billion in 2030, versus $11.4 billion consensus.

Separately, Evaluate Vantage has predicted the med will generate $4.9 billion in sales by 2026.

Tirzepatide aced its secondary endpoints at the 72-week mark, too, Lilly added. Those auxiliary metrics looked at whether the drug could help patients achieve at least 10%, 15% and 20% weight loss versus placebo. Additionally, Lilly looked at the drug’s ability to shrink patient’s waist circumference: Patients on the 5-mg tirzepatide dose charted a 14.6 cm reduction, while tirzepatide 10 mg reduced waist circumference by 19.4 cm and tirzepatide 15 mg took off 19.9 cm.

The data “reinforce” Lilly’s confidence in tirzepatide’s obesity potential, Mike Mason, president of Lilly Diabetes, said in a statement. With data showing tirzepatide patients lost between an average of 35 and 52 pounds throughout the trial, Lilly is angling to “transform how diseases like obesity are understood and treated,” he added.

Beyond its apparent weight loss perks, tirzepatide significantly reduced blood pressure, the SVB team pointed out, noting that the results fare well for a potential showdown with Wegovy. Citing the typical caveats that accompany cross-trial comparisons, the analysts pointed out that in systolic blood pressure, tirzepatide demonstrated a 7.2 mmHg reduction versus Wegovy’s 6.2 mmHg reduction. Moreover, tirzpeatide reduced diastolic blood pressure by 4.8 mmHg versus Wegovy’s 2.83 mmHg reduction, the analysts said.

They noted that treatment duration in Lilly’s SURMOUNT-1 trial was 72 weeks, while the duration in Wegovy’s STEP1 study was 68 weeks.

Tirzepatide’s obesity win comes shortly after the med, now christened Mounjaro, won FDA approval as an adjunct to diet and exercise to help Type 2 diabetes patients improve blood sugar control. In diabetes and obesity, the med will have to contend with Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide trio of Ozempic, Rybelsus and Wegovy—the first two approved in diabetes and the latter for weight loss.

Wegovy, also known as semaglutide 2.4 mg, posted 1.4 billion Danish kroner (about $198 million) in first quarter 2022 sales, Novo reported in late April. Combined with some $283.5 million in revenue from Wegovy’s weight loss predecessor Saxenda, Novo’s overall obesity sales climbed a whopping 107% at constant currencies.

Strong demand for Novo’s weight loss newcomer has prompted the Danish drugmaker to elevate its 2025 obesity sales target, as well. By the middle of the decade, the company is angling to generate 25 billion Danish kroner ($3.72 billion) in obesity sales versus a previous target of about $1.69 billion.