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Supply of Eli Lilly’s diabetes drug Mounjaro improves in the United States

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A pharmacist displays boxes of Ozempic, an injectable semaglutide drug used to treat type 2 diabetes made by Novo Nordisk, at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, March 29, 2023.

Georges Frey | Reuters

Elie Lilly said Thursday that supplies of its blockbuster diabetes drug Mounjaro had improved in the United States after months of widespread shortages.

However, the pharmaceutical giant said it was still working to increase production capacity for this treatment and other drugs amid growing demand.

These remarks suggest that Eli Lilly’s initial efforts to increase Mounjaro’s production capacity are beginning to bear fruit. Demand for this treatment is skyrocketing, largely due to its off-label ability to cause significant weight loss. U.S. regulators could potentially approve the weight-loss drug this year, which could drive demand even higher.

During an earnings conference call Thursday, Eli Lilly executives said the company experienced a tight supply of Mounjaro for most of the third quarter. Mounjaro reported $1.4 billion in revenue for the quarter, helping the company beat revenue and bottom line expectations.

But U.S. shipments of Mounjaro have increased recently and inventory levels at U.S. drug wholesalers have improved, according to Anat Ashkenazi, chief financial officer of Eli Lilly.

She noted that all Mounjaro doses are now listed as available in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s shortage database. Meanwhile, Mounjaro’s bid remains tense internationally, Ashkenazi added.

Eli Lilly is on track to meet its goal of doubling production capacity for drugs such as Mounjaro and its other diabetes treatment Trulicity, Ashkenazi said. Both drugs work by mimicking hormones produced in the gut, called incretins, to suppress a person’s appetite and regulate blood sugar levels.

Ashkenazi highlighted the company’s new facility in North Carolina, which is now “online” to provide additional drug assembly capacity. Eli Lilly also invested more than $3 billion to build two new manufacturing sites in its home state of Indiana.

But Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks said during the earnings conference call that the company is “still aggressively planning” to further increase production of Mounjaro and other drugs.

He noted that the company has signed manufacturing agreements with a “diverse portfolio” of contractors, with Eli Lilly “purchasing as much available capacity” in their systems.

“It’s really all hands on deck,” Ricks said. “It’s something we work on every day, so we’re not happy with the capacity at all.”

Eli Lilly’s main rival in the field of weight loss drugs, Novo Nordiskis still facing its own supply constraints for diabetes drug Ozempic and obesity treatment Wegovy.

Ozempic and Wegovy sparked the weight-loss industry’s gold rush last year, pushing out Eli Lilly and other companies such as Pfizer to intensify their investments in space.

Early studies suggested that Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro might be even more effective at reducing weight than Wegovy and Ozempic.

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