Pharma's Q3 growth rankings: GLP-1 drugs from Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk were once again the big story

Eli Lilly’s fortunes have turned quickly. Two quarters after posting an 11% revenue decrease in Q1—due largely to a decrease in sales of COVID antibodies—the Indianapolis company enjoyed the largest revenue gain in the industry at 38% in the third quarter.

It’s no secret that Lilly’s booming sales have been fueled by type 2 diabetes drug Mounjaro, which generated $1.4 billion in just its fifth full quarter on the market. But the spike has even surprised analysts, who came up 12% short in their estimate of Mounjaro’s sales for the period.

It was the second straight quarter where the overwhelming success of blood sugar regulating treatments were the dominant story in the biopharma industry. The only other company rivaling Lilly’s revenue increase in the quarter was Novo Nordisk, with a 29% boost year over year, bolstered by the skyrocketing sales of its semaglutide products Ozempic and Wegovy.

Expecting the trend to continue through the rest of this decade are analysts at TD Cowen. In a report released last week and titled “Will GLP-1s Eat the World?” Cowen projects the type 2 diabetes and obesity market to mushroom to $102 billion by 2030. It’s a huge increase from the $30 billion market Cowen envisioned last year for 2030.

By then, Cowen sees Lilly controlling 44% of the market, compared to 52% for Novo. But the analysts also see Lilly eventually having an edge with its dual-mechanism compound tirzepatide. Gaining an FDA green light for obesity treatment Zepbound earlier this month helps Lilly play catch up.

“Our physician consultants indicate that Mounjaro is the GLP-1 of choice for (type 2 diabetes) and Zepbound is likely to become the preferred weight loss agent,” Cowen wrote. “Greater uptake of GLP-1s in both markets should more than offset share losses of Ozempic and Wegovy. But longer term, Novo needs an answer for tirzepatide.”

Mounjaro’s rise has overshadowed the success of a few other Lilly products. Breast cancer drug Verzenio posted a sales increase of 68% to $1 billion in the quarter while diabetes treatment Jardiance, which is gaining use in heart failure and kidney disease, reached $701 million in sales for a 22% bump year over year.

Meanwhile, Novo Nordisk reported sales of Ozempic at $3.3 billion for the quarter, up 56%, with revenue from Wegovy rocketing to $1.4 billion. Together, the two semaglutide drugs accounted for 56% of the company’s $8.4 billion in revenue.

Other Climbers

Of the industry’s top 25 companies by revenue in the third quarter, 14 delivered increases year over year. Aside from Lilly and Novo, three other companies had double-digit revenue gains. Regeneron and Daiichi Sankyo each had sales increases of 15%, while Novartis generated a 12% sales bump.

Regeneron’s boost was provided largely by IL-4 receptor Dupixent, which racked up sales of $3.1 billion for an increase of 33% year over year. And Regeneron’s revenue binge could continue for the next few quarters as the company gained an FDA nod in August for its longer-acting version of Eylea. Sales of the mega-blockbuster have stagnated with the emergence of Roche’s long-acting Vabysmo.

“Eylea HD for wet-age macular degeneration certainly appears to be off to a strong start following its launch in late August with Q3 sales of $43 million despite being in the market for essentially just one month,” Third Bridge analyst Lee Brown noted.

The revenue boost for Daiichi Sankyo came thanks to increased sales of breast cancer drug Enhertu, which had a 233% increase, and anticoagulant Lixiana, which was up 30%. Expect the trend to continue for several more quarters as the Tokyo-based company has dialed up its revenue projection for Enhertu based on the sales trajectory. plus two August approvals into earlier treatment lines. Daiichi also will get a boost from the recent sale of three antibody drug conjugates to Merck for $4.5 billion up front and up to $22 billion in potential deal value.

Novartis’ sales boost was attributed to gains from multiple sclerosis drug Kesimpta (124%), heart failure treatment Entresto (31%) and cancer therapies Kisqali (72%) and Pluvicto (220%).

Other companies that saw revenue gains in the third quarter were Johnson & Johnson (7%), Teva (7%), Vertex (6%), AstraZeneca (5%), GSK (4%), Amgen (4%), Takeda (4%), Astellas (3%) and Biogen (1%).


Given their success selling COVID-19 products, it was little surprise that Pfizer and Moderna experienced the largest revenue decreases in the third quarter. Oddly enough, both companies saw a 42% drop in sales.

Pfizer’s quarterly performance could be seen as a positive, however, because when excluding sales from COVID treatments, the company had a 10% revenue increase. Helping spark the boost was $375 million in sales of new RSV vaccine Abrysvo.

Also in decline year over year were Merck KGaA (-10%), Bayer (-9%), AbbVie (-6%), Sanofi (-4%), Roche (-3%), Viatris (-3%) and Bristol Myes Squibb (-2%).

Merck KGaA chalked up its sales slide to its life science and electronics units, which had declines of 13% and 4% respectively, due to “difficult market conditions.” Meanwhile, the company’s healthcare unit had a 7% increase in sales, thanks largely to cancer drugs Bavencio (22%) and Erbitux (13%).

Sharing equal blame for Bayer’s revenue decrease were its consumer health and pharma units, which were down 8.9% and 8.4% respectively. AbbVie’s slide can be attributed to declining sales of Humira, which is under generic assault and was down 36% year over year.

Companies that had no significant revenue loss or gain in the third quarter year over year were Merck and Gilead. Both however showed solid sequential gains from the second quarter of 7% and 6% respectively.