Merck & Co (MRK.N) is exploring GLP-1 treatments that offer benefits beyond weight loss, according to CEO Robert Davis. GLP-1 class drugs, such as Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Ozempic and Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro and Zepbound, are anticipated to generate over $100 billion in annual sales by the end of the decade.
Merck’s experimental drug efinopegdutide, a GLP-1 class drug developed for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), has demonstrated a “compelling” weight-loss benefit. The company believes that showcasing additional benefits, such as cardiovascular outcomes, diabetes outcomes, and fatty liver disease benefits, will enhance the chances of getting reimbursement for the drugs, especially in the challenging field of weight management.
GLP-1 drugs, which control blood sugar levels and induce a sense of fullness, are also being studied for their potential to improve health in various ways. Last year’s data indicated that semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy and Ozempic, may reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack and potentially delay the progression of kidney disease in diabetes patients. These findings open new avenues for GLP-1 drugs beyond their traditional use in diabetes and weight management.
Merck’s focus on developing GLP-1 treatments with broader benefits aligns with the evolving landscape of healthcare, where multifaceted solutions addressing multiple health aspects are gaining importance. Demonstrating positive outcomes in areas like cardiovascular health and liver disease could not only benefit patients but also provide a strategic advantage in market positioning and reimbursement negotiations.
The potential expansion of GLP-1 drugs into diverse health benefits reflects the pharmaceutical industry’s continuous efforts to innovate and meet the evolving needs of patients. As research progresses, the industry may witness further breakthroughs in the therapeutic applications of GLP-1 class drugs, opening new possibilities for improving patient outcomes and expanding market opportunities.