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Obesity Drug Impresses in Study

Eli Lilly reported data from a clinical trial on an experimental obesity drug that showed it could help patients lose around 22.5 percent of their body weight, offering a future potential alternative to bariatric surgery.

The drugmaker has yet to submit the data for publication in a peer-review journal, but optimism among those in the field and industry analysts was widespread. Sekar Kathiresan, CEO of Verve Therapeutics, a firm developing heart disease drugs, tweeted, "Wow (and a double Wow!)."

Study participants, on average, weighed 231 pounds at the outset of the study and had a body mass index of 38. At the end of the study, those taking the higher doses of the drug, called tirzepatide, on average, weighed about 180 pounds and had a BMI just below 30. 

Lee Kaplan, an obesity expert at the Massachusetts General Hospital, said that the drug's effect "appears to be significantly better than any other anti-obesity medication that is currently available in the US." The results, are "very impressive," he told The New York Times.

Industry analysts were likewise impressed. Mizuho Securities analyst Vamil Divan said the drug "has potential to be a multibillion-dollar product" for both diabetes and weight loss, according to CNBC.

But, as The NYT points out, tirzepatide would likely need to be taken for a lifetime, similar to blood pressure drugs. And another concern is whether it would be reimbursed by insurance companies, which often won't pay for such drugs. A competing drug on the market called Wegovy, made by Novo Nordisk, has a list price of $1,349.02 per month, and many expect the Lilly drug to have a similar cost, should it receive FDA approval.

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