The Future of Weight Loss Drugs: A Booming Market with New Players

As demand for weight loss solutions continues to rise, the race to dominate the weight loss drug market is heating up. With projections estimating that 15 million adults in the United States will be on obesity medications by 2030, drugmakers are eager to seize this opportunity. While Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly currently hold a dominant position in the weight loss drug space, several lesser-known contenders are emerging, aiming to challenge the market leaders. In this article, we will explore the potential of Boehringer Ingelheim, Terns Pharmaceuticals, Viking Therapeutics, and Structure Therapeutics in the exciting realm of weight loss drugs.

Boehringer Ingelheim: Targeting Two Gut Hormones for Effective Weight Loss

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Boehringer Ingelheim, in collaboration with Danish biotech firm Zealand Pharma, is making significant strides in developing a weight loss drug that could revolutionize the industry. Unlike other medications that solely target GLP-1, Boehringer Ingelheim’s experimental drug, called survodutide, aims to influence two critical gut hormones: GLP-1, which suppresses appetite, and glucagon, which increases energy expenditure. By targeting both hormones simultaneously, Boehringer Ingelheim’s approach holds the potential to deliver superior weight loss results.

Already showing promise, the drug’s mid-stage trial demonstrated impressive weight loss outcomes in overweight and obese patients. After 46 weeks of treatment, participants experienced weight loss of up to 19%. Encouragingly, Zealand Pharma anticipates even more substantial results, estimating a potential weight loss range of 20% to 25% in the upcoming phase three trial. While awaiting potential Food and Drug Administration approval, both companies remain optimistic about the drug’s future impact on weight loss treatment.


Terns Pharmaceuticals: Pioneering Oral Weight Loss Drug Approaches

While injectable weight loss drugs have gained popularity, Terns Pharmaceuticals is taking a different route by developing an oral medication. This approach presents several advantages, making it easier for patients to adhere to the treatment plan and for manufacturers to produce the drug at scale. Terns Pharmaceuticals’ oral weight loss drug primarily targets GLP-1, aiming to suppress appetite effectively.

Currently conducting an early-stage trial involving overweight or obese subjects, Terns Pharmaceuticals plans to release the initial 28-day data in the second half of 2024. While acknowledging the competitive landscape, the company’s head of research and development, Erin Quirk, remains bullish on the market potential. Quirk pointed out that even capturing a modest 1% market share could result in a billion-dollar drug, as some analysts predict the weight loss drug market to be worth a staggering $100 billion.


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Viking Therapeutics: Harnessing the Power of GLP-1 and GIP

Viking Therapeutics is another noteworthy contender in the weight loss drug market, focusing on developing drugs that target GLP-1 and another hormone called GIP. By leveraging the same hormones as Eli Lilly’s successful weight loss and diabetes medications, Viking Therapeutics aims to deliver comparable efficacy.

The company has exciting developments on the horizon, with mid-stage trial data for its weight loss injection expected to be released in the first half of this year. Initial results from an early-stage study revealed an impressive weight loss of up to 7.8% after just 28 days. Additionally, Viking Therapeutics is set to unveil phase one trial data for an oral version of its weight loss drug, further expanding its potential treatment options.

Structure Therapeutics: Pursuing Innovation and Clinical Trials

Structure Therapeutics is dedicated to pioneering an obesity pill that pushes the boundaries of weight loss treatments. Although a mid-stage trial fell short of Wall Street’s weight loss expectations, the company remains undeterred. In this trial, obese patients experienced an approximate 5% weight reduction in comparison to those who received a placebo after eight weeks. Structure Therapeutics, however, anticipates more comprehensive results from a full 12-week analysis expected in the second quarter of this year.

Looking ahead, Structure Therapeutics plans to initiate a larger mid-stage study in the second half of 2024, followed by a late-stage trial in 2026. By strategically combining innovation and clinical trials, Structure Therapeutics aims to refine its obesity pill and emerge as a competitive player in the weight loss drug market.

The Future Landscape of Weight Loss Drugs: Potential Powerhouses

Beyond the current contenders, industry giants are also eyeing the weight loss drug market. French company Sanofi, despite a setback in a mid-stage trial years ago, has expressed interest in exploring “next-generation” weight loss drugs. These potential advancements could offer advantages such as reduced side effects, ushering in a new wave of weight loss treatments. Similarly, Bayer, while hesitant to enter the obesity market independently, is open to potential partnerships and collaborations with other companies, signaling a shared determination to shape the future of weight loss pharmaceuticals.


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The weight loss drug market is expanding rapidly, with ample room for fresh contenders. Boehringer Ingelheim, Terns Pharmaceuticals, Viking Therapeutics, and Structure Therapeutics are vying for their share of this lucrative market. As promising newcomers, they each bring unique approaches and scientific advancements that have the potential to redefine weight loss treatment. With the demand for weight loss solutions growing unabated, these companies are on the verge of playing significant roles in shaping the future of weight loss drugs.

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