An Eli Lilly drug if approved for weight loss will become the best-selling drug ever.
It is called tirzepatide, and will be approved by the Food and Drug Administration sometime next year.
Annual sales of tirzepatide could reach $48 billion, according to an estimate from Bank of America analyst Geoff Meacham.
The price for the drug is yet to be revealed.
The “fair” price for tirzepatide could be around $13,000 annually, or around $1,100 a month, said Dr. David Rind, the chief medical officer for the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, a research group that helps determine fair prices for drugs.
It is a class of drugs called GLP-1 agonists, which imitates a hormone that reduces food intake and hunger.
Tirzepatide also emulates a second hormone, called GIP, which along with reducing appetite, may also improve how the body breaks down sugar and fat.
A phase 3 clinical trial found a high dose of tirzepatide helped patients lose 22.5% of their body weight on average, or about 52 pounds, better than any medication currently on the market.
At lower doses, all three of the drugs are already approved to treat diabetes. Tirzepatide is sold under the name Mounjaro for diabetes.
Obesity carries a unique stigma, said Dr. W. Scott Butsch, director of obesity medicine at the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Many physicians, he said, still see it as a behavioral problem rather than a medical one.
“You have a bias,” Butsch said, adding that, “insurance companies ask for more proof of the benefits of anti-obesity drugs than they normally would for other kinds of medications.”
“Some insurers may select one of the weight loss drugs and offer coverage, he said, but they often restrict access only to patients who meet a certain threshold, such as a BMI greater than 30.“
Dr. Holly Lofton, the director of the weight management program at NYU Langone Health, regularly prescribes the new drugs to her patients but many, she says, are denied coverage by their insurance. “Patients tell me that it appears to them as if insurance companies want to wait until they get so sick that they have more of a necessity for a medication,” she said.
Dr. Fatima Stanford, an obesity medicine specialist and the equity director of the endocrine division at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said that. “private insurance coverage for anti-obesity medications is spotty, with treatments often restricted to the most expensive plans. “