Lilly's tirzepatide doesn't necessarily top diabetes rivals Jardiance and Ozempic, ICER says

Data on Eli Lilly’s type 2 diabetes hopeful tirzepatide look good so far, one watchdog says. But how much better is the med than Novo Nordisk’s entrenched GLP-1 blockbuster Ozempic or Lilly's Boehringer Ingelheim-partnered Jardiance?

That was the question at the center of the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review’s (ICER’s) recent report on Lilly's promising drug candidate, which is poised to bring in nearly $5 billion by the middle of the decade, according to Evaluate Vantage estimates. Against background therapy alone, the drug earned a B+ mark, the reviewers found. But its benefits against the two entrenched diabetes brands aren't as clear-cut. 

Data on the drug provide “high certainty” that tirzepatide confers “at least a small net health benefit when added to background therapy, with the possibility of a substantial net health benefit,” ICER said. While ICER's reviewers said the drug provides clear benefits over background therapy, the experts were split on its benefits against Novo's Ozempic and Boehringer and Lilly's Jardiance.

Against Ozempic, the reviewers concluded the drug has "comparable or incremental net health benefits," the report says. And against Jardiance, "the indirect comparison and lack of definitive cardiovascular or renal outcomes data" caused them to have "more uncertainty about the relative benefit," the team wrote.

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In a head-to-head trial against Novo's Ozempic, Lilly's drug "showed a greater decrease in hbA1c levels, weight, triglycerides, and blood pressure,” Jon Campbell, Ph.D., M.S., ICER’s senior vice president of health economics, noted in a statement. On the flip side, however, the team pointed out that there haven't been any head-to-head results on tirzepatide versus Jardiance. 

Based on data so far, ICER thinks a fair price for the drug could be between $5,500 to $5,700 a year. Lilly just submitted its candidate to the FDA last December and hasn't unveiled its pricing strategy.

Meanwhile, when it comes to heart health, the jury’s still out on tirzepatide, ICER said.

“Studies of cardiovascular outcomes with tirzepatide have not been concluded, and therefore there is still uncertainty on its true comparative clinical effectiveness in relation to other available treatment options,” ICER’s Campbell said.

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Beyond the diabetes arena, tirzepatide could eventually compete with Novo Nordisk's Wegovy in obesity, too. The FDA's decision on tirzepatide is expected by the middle of the year, while data for its obesity drive are poised to drop in April.