1. There’s an unmet need
While type 2 diabetes currently afflicts about 10% of Americans, that is far exceeded by the percentage who meet the clinical definition of obesity.6 (Of course, there is some overlap between these populations.) The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. has risen steadily. It now stands at 42.0% of the population, up from 30.5% in 2000.7
The idea is to be able to apply GLP-1 receptor agonists for both conditions. This would create a very large market opportunity for pharmaceutical manufacturers with potential health benefits for patients and significant cost impacts for plan sponsors.
The impact of obesity is already evident in medical spending. In addition to type 2 diabetes, people with obesity are at an increased risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, and many types of cancer. As a result, adults with obesity in the United States incurred annual medical care costs that were $2,505 higher compared with those with a lower body mass index.8
Despite the need to treat obesity, there are relatively few FDA-approved prescription drug options for weight management.9 Prior to 2021, there were only four commonly prescribed medications for obesity.
This changed in June 2021 when the FDA approved Wegovy (semaglutide) for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight with at least one weight-related condition. Made by Novo Nordisk, Wegovy is the first new weight loss drug approved since Saxenda (liraglutide), which was approved in 2014.
The approval for Wegovy came after participants in a clinical trial displayed statistically meaningful weight loss when taking the drug alongside intensive behavioral therapy and an initial low-calorie diet. People who received Wegovy lost an average of 12.4% more of their initial body weight compared to those receiving the placebo.10