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China Regulators Approve Eli Lilly’s Diabetes Drug Tirzepatide

Chinese regulators give a green light for pharma giant’s diabetes drug tirzepatide, which is marketed as Mounjaro, or Zepbound (for weight loss). It comes at a time of huge global demand

Mounjaro is displayed in a pharmacy in Provo, Utah, in this Reuters file image.


American pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly said on Tuesday that its diabetes drug tirzepatide has won approval from Chinese regulators.

The news means it will compete with Novo Nordisk, a Danish rival, which won approval for its popular diabetes drug Ozempic in the huge Asian market in 2021.

Novo Nordisk saw sales of Ozempic – which involves a weekly injection – in the greater China region (that includes Hong Kong and Taiwan) double to 4.8 billion Danish Krone ($698 million) last year.


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Tirzepatide is the active ingredient in the US firm’s diabetes drug Mounjaro and weight-loss drug Zepbound.


Huge demand in weight-loss market

Eli Lilly did not say when sales would begin in China or how many doses would be supplied.

But the company said in a note on its website earlier this month that its type 2 diabetes and obesity drugs have seen extraordinary growth in demand and “that it has caused challenges in supplying enough medicine to meet this demand.”

Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk are racing to increase production in a weight-loss market estimated to reach at least $100 billion globally by decade’s end. Both companies’ obesity treatments belong to a class of drugs originally developed for diabetes known as GLP-1 agonists.

GLP-1 drugs have been shown to help patients lose on average as much as 20% of their weight, fuelling unparalleled demand.

Novo Nordisk expected in March that its weight-loss drug Wegovy would be approved for sale in China this year and launched with limited supply in the country, which experts estimate has the world’s highest number of people who are overweight or obese

Skyrocketing demand for Zepbound drove Eli Lilly to raise its annual sales forecast by $2 billion last month.

The US Food and Drug Administration said last month that most doses of Mounjaro and Zepbound would be in limited supply through the second quarter of this year due to increased demand.

Mounjaro has been approved in the US since 2022 for patients with type-2 diabetes to control their blood sugar levels. It was approved in the US for weight loss under the brand name Zepbound late last year.


  • Reuters with additional input and editing by Jim Pollard



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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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