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Ozempic Maker is Testing Weight-Loss Shots in Children as Young as Six

Ozempic Maker is Testing Weight-Loss Shots in Children as Young as Six

Pharmaceutical giants such as Eli Lilly & Co. and Novo Nordisk A/S are experimenting with weight-loss shots for younger patients. Trials for Eli Lilly’s diabetes drug Mounjaro are set to include patients as young as six, while Novo Nordisk is testing Saxenda, an older and less potent version of their popular drugs Ozempic and Wegovy, in children as young as six. Eli Lilly has recently started enrolling kids of 12 years and above for the drug trial, with a focus on including all affected segments of the population.

Trial on pediatric weight-loss shots raises concerns

The anticipated trial results of Novo Nordisk A/S and Eli Lilly & Co.’s weight-loss shots for younger patients remain unclear for now. Novo Nordisk couldn’t comment due to its quiet period before its third-quarter earnings call.

Meanwhile, Eli Lilly & Co. initiated a drug trial for children of 12 years and above this week. If approved, the drugs would be revolutionary as the first weight-loss medicines available to patients as young as six. The US FDA and the European Medicines Agency allow the use of such treatments for children 12 years and older. Nevertheless, the drug trials and the possibility of such approvals have sparked concerns among experts on pediatric health.

Childhood Obesity Rates in the US

Over the past decade, the prevalence of childhood obesity in the country has tripled, with approximately 20% of children aged six and above affected. This statistic places the US as one of the countries with the highest obesity rates among young children. Pediatric obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) in the 95th percentile or higher for their age.

For pharmaceutical companies, expanding the age range of patients for weight-loss medications also presents a significant financial opportunity. A recent projection by Goldman Sachs estimated that GLP-1 medications could generate $100 billion in revenue by 2030, and this prediction doesn’t even take into account sales to children. Since studies have shown that these treatments only yield results when taken continuously, children may require long-term use of the medications, potentially leading to even higher revenues compared to adults who also rely on the drugs for sustained weight loss.

However, even if weight-loss drugs receive approval for younger children, their widespread usage remains uncertain. Limited data regarding the uptake of these medications among teenagers, which could provide insights into potential usage among even younger children, makes it challenging to predict. Nevertheless, available information indicates that weight-loss drugs are more popular among adults.

According to an analysis of 300 million patients conducted by Komodo Health, teenagers accounted for less than 1% of weight-loss prescriptions for the newer GLP-1 drugs last year. The analysis specifically excluded patients diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in an attempt to focus solely on individuals taking the drugs for obesity. Notably, the findings largely excluded any usage of Wegovy, a drug approved by the FDA for teenagers with obesity in December 2022.

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