Pfizer weight loss drug may be as effective as competitors: Study

Yahoo Finance Live health care reporter Anjalee Khemlani details the clinical trial results of Pfizer's weight loss drug Danuglipron, how it compares to Novo Nordisk's Ozempic, and examines the adoption of weight loss drugs in the health and wellness space.

Video Transcript

- Meantime, Pfizer is entering the weight loss drug space for the first time. On Monday, a new peer-reviewed study of Pfizer's phase II clinical trial results showed that Pfizer's oral weight loss drug could be as effective as rival Novo Nordisk Ozempic. Studies around weight loss drugs are ramping up, and it shows in the concentrated efforts these pharmaceutical companies are making. We have here with us Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani to tell us more. Anj.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's right. So listen, we know of course, there's been a lot of discussion around weight loss drugs, and in particular, the type 2 drugs that are being used for weight loss in eligible patients. But what's really happening now is this focus on the weight loss part and obesity really ramping up.

You're seeing the dovetailing of interests, including those who have been advocating for recognizing obesity as a chronic disease for quite some time, as well as now, this new generation of what is known as GLP-1s. And they've been around for some time. But this new generation is really, really what has caused a lot of interest.

So let's take a look at what we have on the market right now. We know that there's of course, the Eli Lilly, we've got Novo Nordisk, and we've also got Mounjaro. And we've got now these oral versions, because those are all injectable. So Novo Nordisk with its phase III trial, that's the leader in this area, Pfizer, like you just talked about in phase II, and Eli Lilly just starting on its oral options as of this week. So we've got a lot on the table, looking at a rollout for the next couple of years.

Meanwhile, we know that companies are starting to already prescribe these for obesity alone. That includes companies like Weight Watchers and Noom, which we've talked about this week, really switching gears from what they've been pushing before, which is more behavioral and lifestyle. And then telehealth platforms like Ro who are also jumping on the bandwagon.

So that's sort of where you see this focus right now. It's something that is really of concern. We've seen how insurance companies have been pushing back on coverage. And there's a reason behind that. So I got a chance to talk to Found CEO Sarah Simmer, and she had this to say about this. In discussions with employer, she said they're seeing Ozempic go from not even the top 20 of drug costs to literally number one within six months time. One employer said that Ozempic prescriptions had increased 400% year on year.

Now, that's clearly not type 2 diabetes patients jumping up 400% year on year. So what's in the pipeline right now we know is focusing on a number of things. It's not just about the weight loss, that's the positive, but also other byproducts and other comorbidities too, type 2 diabetes. So while taking type 2 diabetes drugs, does have these side effects that we know about with those impact in Wegovy, and the like, like nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.

We've also seen on the plus side with the weight loss they are seeing signals for potential improvement in stroke and reduced heart attack in these patients. So that's where even more enthusiasm is coming from the scientific community. So that's why you're hearing a lot about these drugs even though they've actually been around for some time. But you're starting to see even more enthusiasm around them for this.

- Because they're working too. That's part of the enthusiasm that you're seeing around them. And I mean-- and Noom, obviously part of it. Yes, they had a behavioral, but maybe some of the behaviors aren't working and they're trying to figure out how do they repeat customers.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: It also helps accelerate that process. And an important point on the oral part is also to help diabetics move away from needles. That's like a really big push in the type 2 diabetes community.

- Just a couple of-- I have so many questions, but just a couple of things to mention. You talked about the platforms that are now using these. The ones that don't seem to be like a HIMSS, Hims and Hers actually has recently been seeing its stock drop. It's up today. But like for the week, it's been seeing some rockiness there.

I also want to ask you about supply, though, because that has also been a big issue here for the people that need this stuff. Not for weight loss, but for diabetes.

- But for diabetes.

- Are we seeing these various companies do a big ramp up in production to meet this now increased demand?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Well, because they're specifically catering for type 2, it's based on that population and what they expect those prescriptions to be. You saw, for example--

- So wait, they're not basing it on this new weight loss demand also?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Because it's not-- not all those drugs are indicated for--

- Because they're off label.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: They're off label. And on the HIMSS part, they want to. They're waiting. So it's not like it's completely off the table. So you're seeing some of the people cautiously--

- Of course, they want to.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Everyone wants too. It's a big moneymaker. That's why these drug makers are even in this business. That's why you saw Pfizer quietly working on this. Do you know Eli Lilly?

- It has to be. We'll be left behind if they're not.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Eli was-- exactly. Eli Lilly, this drug, they actually acquired it from a Roche subunit in 2018. That oral version that they're developing is from 2018. So this has been in the works for quite some time. It's been developing as a hot area. I think COVID just kind of put it to the side for some time.

- Yeah.

- I just can't help wondering how all of this could backfire. I mean, maybe that's my own bias showing. But like, I think of the diet pills of the past and they've never--

- Yeah, it's hard to remember them.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: You've got a point there. So long term impacts is what clinicians are looking for, what "Ozempic face" as it's known, or what are the longer term--

- Wait, what does Ozempic face?

- Well, that they lose weight so fast that they have Ozempic face where their face just, I guess, sags. So they're calling it Ozempic face right now.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: And also the weight named after you get off it. And then what are the--

- Right. And that's one of the challenges.

- And what if you stay on it forever.

- Do you have to stay on this for life?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Right, and the cost that goes with it. So there's a lot of unknowns. And they haven't even tested these in healthy obese populations. Eli Lilly just announced that they're starting a trial. And that's it's very complicated. That's why you're hearing just like the surface buzz about it. But underneath, if you sat and did the research I just did for the past week, you'd see just how complex this area is.

- Well, and forget about testing it on healthy obese people. What about testing it on healthy people--

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Who are not obese.

- --who are not obese who are now using it--

- That which some are. I mean, it's apparently, it's very popular on the West Coast. All right, we're going to put a bookmark in this.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: We can have a whole segment on this.

- I love this conversation, Anj. Thank you so much.