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Pfizer Looks To Penetrate Weight Loss Drug Market

Pfizer logo with pills | Image by CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images
Pfizer logo with pills | Image by CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images

The latest weight loss drugs have translated into fat profits for companies like Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly — but can other pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer even compete?

A report by The Motley Fool indicates that the obesity drug market is ripe for investment, but the development of new drugs remains a challenge. Pfizer, who raked in tremendous profits from its COVID-19 vaccines, recently abandoned efforts to develop a twice-daily version of its obesity drug danuglipron — a GLP-1 agonist similar to products put to market by Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly — after the side effects proved to be too horrible.

The company has not given up entirely on the drug, as studies continue for a one-a-day version of danuglipron. In a Q1 meeting reported on by The Motley Fool, Pfizer said it was also developing alternatives to danuglipron.

“So we are strong and [will] keep investing in the whole area because we have the infrastructure,” Pfizer chair and CEO Albert Bourla said. “And obesity is a very big part of it, given the magnitude of the market. … We said repeatedly that we had three agents right now in the clinic, and we have multiple that are pre-clinical that we are progressing.”

While the obesity drugs by Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly have been hugely successful for investors, there are still significant risks to these drugs. As reported by the Daily Mail, Novo’s Ozempic has a long list of side effects, ranging from uncomfortable, like flatulence, to life-threatening, like suicidal thoughts.

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher. It substantially increases a person’s risk of various adverse health outcomes. As reported by The Dallas Express, excess weight has been connected to a heightened risk of type 2 diabetes, heart diseasedepressioncancerdementiainfertility, and more.

As reported by The Dallas Express, the number of people considered to be clinically obese has reached over 1 billion worldwide. This increase in prevalence has sounded alarm bells among public health authorities, such as the World Health Organization.

According to data from the CDC, 1 in 5 American adults was obese in 2022. Obesity is a particular problem in Texas, as previously reported by The Dallas Express, where the condition has made significant gains over the past few years, with 35.5% of adults and 17% of children between the ages of 10 and 17 estimated to be obese.

Ozempic, Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy, and Eli Lilly’s Zepbound were not originally intended as weight loss drugs. All of these medications were intended to treat type 2 diabetes, but they have proven to be effective for other issues as well, besides just weight loss.

Recent studies have shown that Zepbound may help with sleep apnea, a breathing condition affecting an estimated 39 million Americans, as reported by DX. Likewise, Wegovy has shown promise in reducing heart attacks and strokes. As reported by DX, the drug was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating risk factors associated with cardiovascular health.

Keith Speights, who authored The Motley Fool report, is convinced that it is not too late for Pfizer to challenge Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly in the weight loss drug market — even if it takes acquiring another company to do so.

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