Novo Nordisk loses to Eli Lilly in weight loss comparison

The analysis, of which preliminary results were published back in November, shows that Eli Lilly’s tirzepatide produced greater weight loss than Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide. 
Semaglutide is the active ingredient in Novo Nordisk's diabetes medicine Ozempic and the obesity medicine Wegovy. | Photo: Scott Olson/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix
Semaglutide is the active ingredient in Novo Nordisk's diabetes medicine Ozempic and the obesity medicine Wegovy. | Photo: Scott Olson/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

Eli Lilly has beaten Novo Nordisk in what is believed to be the first direct comparison of their respective bestselling substances, tirzepatide and semaglutide.

The analysis was published Monday in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Jama Internal Medicine, which is published by the American Medical Association.

The analysis shows that tirzepatide, the active ingredient in Eli Lilly’s diabetes drug Mounjaro and in the obesity drug Zepbound, reduced patients’ weight by 5.9%, 10.1% and 15.3% over 3, 6 and 12 months, respectively.

For semaglutide, the GLP-1 analog in Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug Ozempic and obesity drug Wegovy, the average weight loss after 3 months was 3.6%, after 6 months 5.8% and after one year 8.3%.

The analysis was conducted by researchers affiliated with Truveta Research, which uses US healthcare data to improve research and patient care, and the initial results were presented back in November, but have now also been published in the prestigious Jama journal.

The analysis included a total of 41,222 adult diabetic patients receiving either semaglutide or tirzepatide, from which a cohort of 18,386 overweight or obese patients were selected for the study.

”In this population of overweight or obese adults, the use of tirzepatide was associated with significantly greater weight loss than semaglutide. Future studies are needed to understand differences in other important outcomes,” it concludes.

Back in November last year, equity analyst Søren Løntoft Hansen from Sydbank emphasized that Truveta’s analysis is not a clinical study, which for example also takes into account comparability in dosing, but data collection from the US healthcare system.

He also pointed out that Eli Lilly has an ”attractive product”, but that for both Novo Nordisk and the American competitor, the main challenge in the coming years will be to produce enough of their products to meet the needs of the many patients.

”You might get the impression that there is going to be a very fierce competition between these two drugs in that market, but right now and in the next few years - in 2024 and 2025 - it’s about who is able to meet the demand, because these two competitors will be able to sell everything they can produce, and that applies to both obesity and diabetes,” said Hansen.

English edit: Catherine Brett

Share article

Sign up for our newsletter

Stay ahead of development by receiving our newsletter on the latest sector knowledge.

Newsletter terms

Front page now

Foto: Mike Blake/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Gilead Sciences CMO to leave early 2025

For subscribers

Further reading