Amid mainstream hype, Eli Lilly takes a hard line marketing its buzzy diabetes med Mounjaro

Amid supply squeezes and mainstream hype for injectable incretin meds as an off-label resource for weight loss, Eli Lilly is attempting to run a tight ship with its marketing of Mounjaro.

After Lilly’s rival Novo Nordisk faced overwhelming demand in 2022 for Type 2 diabetes blockbuster Ozempic, Lilly is keeping a close watch on Mounjaro production capacity, plus the ways in which patients are using the medication. Specifically, the company wants to clamp down on potential off-label use in patients who don't have diabetes.

Back in October, Lilly tweaked its discount program for Mounjaro, also known as tirzepatide, requiring people to attest that they have Type 2 diabetes, STAT News and others reported at the time. The program helps patients get the drug for just $25 a month, versus around $1,000 before discounts.

The move came as GLP-1s such as Mounjaro and Novo’s Wegovy and Ozempic gained traction in the mainstream press for their weight loss capabilities. 

Speaking to analysts on Lilly's fourth-quarter earnings call Thursday, CFO Anat Ashkenazi echoed her company’s efforts to “reinforce the intended use of the Mounjaro savings program" by limiting enrollment to diabetes patients. 

These actions “could negatively impact new prescription volumes but were not expected to impact net revenue as anticipated," she added.

Mounjaro reeled in $279.2 million for the fourth quarter, falling short of Wall Street expectations. For the full year, the drug generated $483 million after an FDA nod in May 2022.

But there’s reason to believe the launch will take off this year, Lilly says. The company is bracing for “robust demand and upcoming launches” by bringing additional manufacturing capacity online, Ashkenazi stressed.

Lilly has laid the groundwork to add “substantial capacity in the years ahead,” Ashkenazi noted, singling out Lilly’s recent efforts to pump $450 million into the company’s yet-to-open production site at North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park.

Production at that facility is slated to kick off later this year.

With so much focus on Mounjaro, it’s easy to lose sight of Lilly’s other key growth drivers—drugs like Verzenio, Jardiance and Taltz—which also saw “tremendous growth” in the fourth quarter, according to Lilly’s CFO.

Peeling back the layers, Verzenio grew sales a whopping 100% to $808 million. The drug brought home $2.48 billion for the entire year. Jardiance, for its part, snared $612.3 million for the quarter, growing sales 42%. For all of 2022, the medication collected about $2.06 billion.

On the whole, Lilly’s revenue dropped 9% to about $7.3 billion for the last three months of 2022. Looking ahead, the company is aiming for 2023 revenues in the vicinity of about $30.5 billion.