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Amgen's peek at its GLP-1 drug trial results heightens competition in obesity market

Amgen's (AMGN) positive trial results update on its GLP-1 injectable for obesity, MariTide, sent its stock up more than 13% in trading Friday.

CEO Bob Bradway shared a peek at phase II results of the potential competitor to market leaders Wegovy from Novo Nordisk (NVO) and Zepbound from Eli Lilly (LLY) during Amgen's earnings call late Thursday.

"Following the interim analysis, I would say we're confident in MariTide's differentiated profile, and believe it will address important unmet medical needs," Bradway said.

Bradway and other executives did not expand on what exactly would differentiate it from existing products, however. Final phase II results are expected later in the year and the company has yet to begin the final step toward approval, a phase III trial of the drug.

Still, Novo's stock slid more than 1% and Lilly's fell nearly 3% Friday. But analysts caution more information is needed.


"While the update is encouraging ... we will still need to see full [phase II] data in order to evaluate MariTide's potential role in the rapidly evolving obesity space," said JPMorgan analyst Chris Schott in a note to clients Friday.

Amgen also announced it is scrapping plans for an obesity pill, another area of the market that will be competitive, as Lilly, Novo, and Pfizer (PFE) are all working on options. Meanwhile, the company is starting to look at the same drug to treat diabetes patients, pursuing the market in reverse order from current market leaders.

The competition is heating up in other areas as well.

While obesity and diabetes are the focus for now, there are a number of clinical trials sponsored by the drug manufacturers and other clinical research organizations in the works to focus on different disease states.

An Amgen sign is seen at the company's office in South San Francisco, California in this October 21, 2013 file photo.  REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/Files
An Amgen sign is seen at the company's office in South San Francisco, Calif., in this Oct. 21, 2013, file photo. (REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/Files) (REUTERS / Reuters)

Novo Nordisk already successfully expanded use of Wegovy for cardiovascular benefits, opening the door for greater insurance coverage, as well as the lucrative Medicare market. It is also pursuing a trial for kidney treatment. Eli Lilly, meanwhile, is currently testing Zepbound for sleep apnea.

Both market leaders have reiterated there is room for competition and are undeterred as they begin work on the second generation of their blockbuster drugs.

Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Jørgensen previously told Yahoo Finance, "There is room for competition, there is room for choice."

Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks similarly noted that it was really a matter of making the right moves to maintain the market lead.

"Will we be the leader who gave up the lead, or will we exploit the lead?" Ricks said.

Both companies have early-stage next-generation products in the pipeline in addition to the clinical trials for expanded uses of current products.

Lilly recorded a total of $2 billion from its GLP-1 products in 2023, while Novo Nordisk pocketed $18.4 billion in the same period. Both companies have said that demand continues to outstrip supply.

Anjalee Khemlani is the senior health reporter at Yahoo Finance, covering all things pharma, insurance, care services, digital health, PBMs, and health policy and politics. Follow Anjalee on all social media platforms @AnjKhem.

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