Chinese language drugmakers develop copycat variations of ‘miracle’ weight-loss drug

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Chinese language pharmaceutical corporations are growing home variations of “miracle” weight-loss medication as they tackle western drugmakers promoting anti-obesity medicine in one of many world’s largest markets.

Chinese language drug corporations hope to compete with the Danish pharma group Novo Nordisk’s pioneering medication in China, which has the world’s largest obese and diabetic inhabitants. If profitable, they may additionally probably supply a less expensive different within the west.

The brand new technology of weight-loss medication type a part of a class referred to as glucagon-like peptide-1 agonists or GLP-1s. Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide or Ozempic dominates the market, however dozens utilizing the identical mechanism are present process medical trials in China, analysts stated.

“There will probably be an explosion in provide on the newest by 2026,” stated Beijing-based UBS pharmaceutical analyst Chen Chen.

Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy, a model of Ozempic marketed for weight reduction, is in brief provide globally after it was discovered to provide a 15 per cent common discount in sufferers’ physique weight. The marketplace for diabetes and new weight-loss medication is forecast by analysts to achieve $130bn-$140bn in gross sales worldwide.

Chinese language well being officers have stated tackling diabetes and weight problems is a prime coverage precedence because the nation’s ageing inhabitants takes a toll on the hospital and social care techniques. Some 89mn persons are residing with diabetes in China, simply over 8 per cent of the inhabitants, a determine that The Lancet forecasts will attain 108mn by the tip of the last decade, or 10 per cent of the inhabitants.

A pharmacist dispenses medicine in a drugstore in Linyi, China
Chinese language well being officers have prioritised tackling diabetes and weight problems within the nation’s ageing inhabitants © Oriental Picture/Reuters

Whereas many multinationals try to diversify gross sales away from China, western pharmaceutical teams together with Moderna and AstraZeneca are digging in, hanging funding offers and joint ventures with native corporations to capitalise on the large potential introduced by the ageing inhabitants. Novo Nordisk presently dominates the $500mn Chinese language marketplace for GLP-1 medication, based on analytics group Clarivate.

To date Chinese language regulators have authorised Novo Nordisk’s drug just for diabetes, however customers can get it from docs for weight reduction or buy it on the black market. The identical compounds are used to deal with diabetes and weight problems.

Final month Beijing gave the primary approval for GLP-1 weight reduction medication, made by Chinese language corporations Huadong Drugs and Shanghai Benemae Pharmaceutical.

Analysts predict Novo Nordisk will quickly achieve approval in China for its weight-loss drug Wegovy, which solely requires an injection as soon as every week, in contrast with the every day dose for Huadong’s and three doses for Benemae’s drugs.

Helen Chen, higher China managing companion at LEK Consulting in Shanghai, stated as many as 70 medication have been being trialled however home rivals wouldn’t “make a lot of a dent” till they have been included on a authorities procurement listing.

Column chart of Number of overweight/obese adults in China (mn) showing China’s population is getting heavier

Even when home rivals seize a bigger share of market demand, analysts are nonetheless projecting income to develop for Novo Nordisk.

Clarivate forecasts GLP-1 gross sales in China will develop eight-fold to achieve $4.2bn in 2031, with Novo Nordisk nonetheless the market chief.

Within the west, Novo Nordisk faces competitors from US pharma group Eli Lilly’s tirzepatide, also called Mounjaro, which is predicted to obtain approval for weight reduction quickly. In a phase-three trial, individuals misplaced a median of twenty-two.5 per cent of their physique weight.

The pair may even compete in China when Eli Lilly introduces tirzepatide for weight reduction. It has additionally offered the rights for its weight-loss drug mazdutide, presently in phase-three trial, to the Suzhou-based biotech group Innovent.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs estimate Innovent will account for 19 per cent of GLP-1 gross sales in China by 2033, given its robust medical outcomes and advertising spend.

In the meantime, a Chinese language rival eager to take a slice of this rising market is difficult Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide patent, which is because of expire in 2026. Final yr, China’s Nationwide Mental Property Administration judged in favour of Huadong, which argued Novo Nordisk’s patent was invalid. The Danish group is interesting in opposition to the choice in a higher-level court docket.

Cheaper Chinese language medication may also show enticing to stretched healthcare techniques within the west, analysts stated.

Emily Subject, an analyst at Barclays, stated weight problems medication have been a “price-sensitive” market. “My studying of the tea leaves on that is that over time it’ll evolve into portfolios of choices of orals and injectables,” she stated.

Much less efficient and cheaper medication may nonetheless be enticing, she stated. “Some sufferers completely do have to lose 50 per cent. For some, 15 per cent is a wholesome vary.”

London-based UBS pharma analyst Michael Leuchten stated 5-10 per cent weight reduction was not a excessive bar for these corporations to fulfill. However he added that to be authorised within the US, Chinese language corporations must present information collected in trials outdoors of China, a prolonged course of.

“Then if there’s a very low-cost possibility that’s fairly good, some pragmatic international locations may open the door to native gamers,” he stated. “Authorities gamers will love you for it as costs come down.”

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