GLP-1 analogue drugs, towards a crisis of the miracle molecule?

GLP-1 analogue drugs, towards a crisis of the miracle molecule?
GLP-1 analogue drugs, towards a crisis of the miracle molecule?

The Danish laboratory Novo Nordisk, whose stock market value exceeded Danish GDP in 2023, and the American Eli Lilly are experiencing a meteoric rise. Obesity, a problem previously limited to rich countries, is turning into a pandemic. Each year, its cost reaches 2% of global GDP, and is expected to be around 2.9% in 2025.2. Weight loss thus appears to be a major societal issue. Globally, this could generate nearly $90 billion per year by 20303. Faced with the convergence of issues, particularly accessibility to health care, impact investors are mobilizing.

Positive results for all?

Initially intended for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, GLP-1 analogues are now used to help obese people with at least one comorbidity associated with being overweight. In a few months, these treatments allow you to lose around 15% of weight while reducing cardiovascular risks. For the moment, only Saxenda and Wegovy developed by Novo Nordisk as well as Mounjaro from Eli Lilly are approved as a treatment for obesity by the American Food and Drug Administration. Although only validated for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, Ozempic from Novo Nordisk is in certain cases prescribed in the context of obesity.

But watch out for deviations. This innovation, effective and a priori without serious consequences, is very popular with a non-target patient population for purely aesthetic purposes. The explosion in demand is generating major shortages, thus depriving target patients, particularly diabetics, of vital treatment. Scarcity also drives massive price increases. Early 2024, one month of Wegovy treatment4, or four injections, could thus reach 1,350 dollars in the United States compared to 350 dollars on average in Europe. Once again, the rise in prices facilitates access to a wealthy, often non-target population.

The engagement of impact investors

Faced with this excitement, which could lead to a major crisis with significant repercussions, impact investors are engaging in a preventive approach. Precursors, LFDE and LBP AM are thus jointly leading a commitment with the two market leaders, in order to evolve practices for the benefit of human rights, in particular that of access to health and information.

In order to alleviate the shortage and thus contribute to the right to health, private investments are intensifying to increase production and support demand. Eli Lilly, which had already invested an additional $160 million at the start of 2024 on its Alsatian site and increased its workforce, just announced in April the construction of a production site dedicated to Mounjaro in Germany. The Danish pharmaceutical firm is pursuing the same trajectory. Novo Nordisk, which will invest more than 2 billion euros in its Chartres factory to double its size, continues its expansion by purchasing several production sites in Belgium, Italy and the United States.

This situation highlights the general accessibility of health care. Recurring shortages make it more difficult for priority patients to access the most effective treatments. Determining issues, availability, geographic and financial accessibility of treatments are key themes of our impact strategy dedicated to access to health, Echiquier Health Impact For All. We are convinced that innovation supported by impact investors will be key in the constantly changing health sector.

1 Glucagon-like peptide-1

2 Ripple Effects study, Morgan Stanley, 2024

3 Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan

4 Boursorama, 2024

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