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The FDA approved Eli Lilly’s injectable weight loss drug today to be marketed as Zepbound. On a chemical level, Zepbound is the same as Mounjaro, Lilly’s GLP-1 agonist already approved to treat diabetes. Zepbound was shown to help people without diabetes lose an average of 18% of their body weight in a late-stage clinical trial. “In light of increasing rates of both obesity and overweight in the United States, today’s approval addresses an unmet medical need,” John Sharretts, who oversees the diabetes and obesity division at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
Employers have already been bracing for massive hikes to their employee healthcare costs amid the clamor and growing number of indications for the drugs. Forbes senior contributor Bruce Japsen reports that health benefits consultant Aon is estimating U.S. employers will see average healthcare costs per employee rise 8.5% to $15,000 in 2024. One full percentage point of the total, or $150, is attributed to GLP-1 drug spending growth.
Meanwhile, last week Lilly competitor Novo Nordisk, which manufactures Ozempic and Wegovy, reported record quarterly profits and sales thanks to the blockbuster drugs.
Amazon Prime’s New $9 Primary Care Subscription Undercuts Amazon’s Other Health Services
Amazon unveiled its latest healthcare play: offering steeply discounted memberships to One Medical, the primary care company it acquired this year for $3.5 billion, to its tens of millions of Amazon Prime U.S. customers. It’s another in a series of experiments by the retail behemoth to carve off a slice of the $4.3 trillion U.S. healthcare market. But it also appears to be competing against some of Amazon’s other health offerings, including Amazon Clinic, which could complicate its strategy to become a major healthcare player.
Pipeline & Deal Updates
Organoids: Heartbeat.bio, which aims to use AI and lab-grown organoids to accelerate discovery of drugs for cardio issues, announced it closed a $4.8 million pre-series A round.
Erosive Reflux: Phantom Pharmaceuticals announced the FDA has approved its drug Voquenza for the treatment of erosive gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is the first time the FDA has approved a new drug for this indication in over 30 years.
Metabolic Diseases: OrsoBio, which is developing treatments for metabolic disorders, announced it has raised a $60 million series A round co-led by Enavate Sciences and Longitude Capital.
Geographic Expansion: Venture firm Flagship Pioneering announced it is opening a hub for the Asia-Pacific region in Singapore. The move follows its opening of a European hub in London earlier this year.
Parkinson’s Disease: A consortium of research institutions in Europe have developed a neuroprosthetic that enabled a first patient to be able to walk normally again.
Health Info: Health information provider Surescripts announced that it has acquired clinical intelligence company ActiveRADAR. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Chronic Disease: Forward Therapeutics, which is developing small molecule therapies for chronic diseases involving inflammation or immunological issues, announced it has raised a $50 million series A led by BVF Partners LP.
Abortion Rights Victories Continue: Here Are All The Wins In Major Elections Since The Supreme Court Overturned Roe
Voters in key elections in Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia this week once again demonstrated how abortion rights has motivated voters to go to the polls. The success of abortion on the ballot this year signals the issue is likely to continue to be a key factor in the 2024 general election.
Other Healthcare News
Cigna reported $1.4 billion in third quarter profits driven by growth in its health insurance plans and pharmacy benefits business.
Alignment Healthcare reported a third quarter loss of $35 million, even as its Medicare Advantage plan membership continues to grow. Oscar Health, which offers health plans on the Obamacare exchanges, reported a quarterly loss of $65.7 million.
The CDC said the number of syphilis cases in newborn babies has “reached dire levels” in the U.S. amid shortages of crucial antibiotics used to treat it.
Almost a dozen tuberculosis cases in the U.S. between 2018 and 2023 were traced back to a California casino. The disease remains one of humanity’s biggest killers and the World Health Organization said antibiotic resistant strains are a looming “public health crisis.”
Next month the FDA will decide on the regulatory fate of two potentially one-time treatment gene therapies for sickle cell disease.