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Wegovy competitor Zepbound wins US approval for weight-loss jab amid gold rush

Miracle weight loss drugs are set to become more available after the US approves Zepbound, a cheaper competitor to Wegovy.

The availability of "miracle" weight loss drugs is expected to increase significantly, following the approval of a new competitor to Wegovy by America's pharmaceuticals regulator. Zepbound, created by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, is designed for obese and overweight patients with at least one health-related complication. Patients with a BMI of over 27 and medical problems such as high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, or cardiovascular disease are expected to be able to purchase the drug in the US by the end of the year.

The drug, marketed under the name Mounjaro, has already been approved in England and Wales for diabetes patients and is currently being considered by British regulators for weight-loss treatment. According to its manufacturer, patients taking the drug for 72 weeks can expect to lose an average of three and a half stone.

Eli Lilly is positioning the drug as being 20% cheaper than semaglutide, which is marketed for weight loss as Wegovy (and known as Ozempic for diabetic patients). Wegovy has been used by notable figures such as Boris Johnson, Jeremy Clarkson, and Elon Musk to lose weight.

In recent months, Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Wegovy, has acknowledged that shortages in its weight loss drugs will persist for years, driven by a 36% increase in sales of its obesity and diabetes treatments in the first nine months of the year, totaling £18.

The pent-up demand has turned obesity drugs into a modern-day gold rush for pharmaceutical companies, generating consumer excitement not seen since Pfizer's launch of Viagra in 1998. Patients are drawn to the apparent ability to lose weight with minimal effort or the risk of complications from bariatric surgery.

As a result, Novo Nordisk's share price has surged by 48% so far this year, while Eli Lilly's has risen by 69%. Goldman Sachs has predicted that Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk could capture 80% of the obesity drugs market by 2030, worth over 80 billion.

Chris Shibutani, a senior biopharmaceuticals analyst at the bank, stated, "The chronic weight management market is undergoing an inflection, in our view, with potential for solid growth ahead and a peak opportunity that, by our estimates, could ultimately yield some of the highest grossing drugs of all time."

With obesity now recognized as the biggest health risk in developed countries, the pressure on health services such as the NHS to provide these drugs is expected to increase. Evan Seigerman, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets, has even suggested that it could be "unethical" for these medications not to be offered to obese patients.

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