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Eli Lilly tightens diabetes drug access, frustrates obese patients

After the recent furore and viral social promotion on TikTok of a diabetic drug for weight-loss among teenagers, and its subsequent shortage, Eli Lilly and US pharmacies have begun tightening access to this type of drug, tirzepatide, focusing on giving it only to people with type 2 diabetes, the sole population for which it’s authorised.

However, the measures have left another set of patients in the lurch: those with clinical obesity who used the medication as one of their few options for treatment, reports STAT News.

The class of drugs is known as GLP-1 receptor agonists, which mimic the effects of a hormone that can help people feel full. Within this group, Novo Nordisk’s obesity drug Wegovy and diabetes drug Ozempic have been in short supply for months, due to increased demand as well as manufacturing issues. Lilly’s diabetes medication Trulicity has also been in tight supply, according to the drugmaker.

That leaves tirzepatide, sold under the name Mounjaro. Lilly said in a statement that the drug is currently not in shortage, but the company is continuing to “monitor availability of competitor therapies” and “supply with a focus on access for people with type 2 diabetes”.

In October, Lilly made changes to a discount programme for the drug, now requiring people to attest they have type 2 diabetes. The coupons allowed patients to get the drug for $25 a month when it would otherwise cost about $1 000. Some pharmacies are also now checking if people have a diabetes diagnosis before filling prescriptions.

Those moves have barred many people with obesity from using the medication. Their doctors had been prescribing it off-label, as data showed it to be effective in helping overweight patients shed weight, but these people are now having to stop the drug, and seeing their weight and related health problems return.

Though it’s understandable for Lilly to be focusing on the people for whom its medication is intended, the situation is “unfair to everybody”, said Scott Butsch, director of obesity medicine in the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

“It’s unfair to obese people because there’s a drug that actually can help them and there’s a provider who wants to treat obesity, yet they do not have access to a reasonable treatment.”

Butsch said while patients with diabetes have some alternative medications available, people with obesity have fewer options.

Regulators will be expediting their review of tirzepatide for obesity, but Lilly is expecting a decision late next year at the earliest. Additionally, many insurers don’t cover obesity drugs, considering them to be lifestyle treatments rather than medically necessary.

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“Lilly only promotes Mounjaro consistent with its approved FDA indication and label and cannot comment on scripts for the treatment of indications outside type 2 diabetes,” the drugmaker said.


Stat News article – Eli Lilly tightens access to diabetes drug, frustrating some people with obesity (Open access)


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TikTok turns diabetes drug into popular diet pill


Weight loss jab slices type 2 diabetes risk by 60% in obese people


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