Eli Lilly, the biggest pharma company by market value, is one of the main manufacturers of popular weight-loss drugs, including the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist Zepbound (tirzepatide). In January 2024, the company launched LillyDirect, its direct-to-consumer distribution network, and it started partnering with online pharmacies such as Truepill. US e-commerce giant Amazon launched its online pharmacy unit in 2020, but it had not made any deal with Big Pharma before last week, when Eli Lilly and Amazon decided to partner up. This marks a new era in medicines distribution, which might be concerning for pharmacies such as CVS and Boots.

Amazon’s network will provide an incredible boost for patient access to weight-loss medicines, especially in the US. LillyDirect allows for online consultations and prescriptions, and Amazon delivers medicines to the patient’s home, offering fast delivery and discounts. As such, the US healthcare system might soon experience a revolution. In an environment in which specialist access is limited and prescriptions are hard to get, this partnership might facilitate drug access for a lot of patients, at least regarding weight-loss drugs.

Hopefully, improving patient access via certified sellers will also mitigate the issue of illicit copies or compounded versions of Zepbound and other weight-loss drugs, which are a source of concern for the patients taking them and a potential threat to the reputation of drug companies.

According to GlobalData’s Analyst Consensus Forecast, Eli Lilly is expected to have sales of $20bn from Zepbound in 2029. The global obesity market is expected to increase rapidly in the next ten years due to new drugs entering the market and improvements in insurance coverage.

Eli Lilly and its main competitor in the obesity space, Novo Nordisk, will continue to challenge each other. In the past few months, both companies have been working on boosting their manufacturing power and making sure that they can meet the market demands for their GLP-1 receptor agonist drugs, as drug shortages are still a big problem in all major markets.

Now, Eli Lilly has also started to boost its distribution channels. It will be interesting to see whether Novo Nordisk will make a similar move in the next few months.

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