Sales of Eli Lilly’s new diabetes drug Mounjaro grew strongly in the final quarter of 2022, the company reported Thursday, challenging the market position of competing medicines from rival Novo Nordisk.
Fourth quarter sales totaled $279 million, bringing the total for 2022 to $483 million following the drug’s June launch. The fast sales put Mounjaro, approved to improve blood sugar control in people with Type 2 diabetes, on pace to quickly reach blockbuster status. Studies have shown the drug to have a powerful weight-loss effect as well, supporting Lilly’s current efforts to expand the drug’s approval to include obesity treatment.
Yet, in a sign of how high expectations have risen for Mounjaro, the sales Lilly posted were lower than what some on Wall Street had predicted. Investment bank SVB Securities expected fourth quarter sales of $370 million, according a client note from analyst David Risinger, and the consensus forecast was $288 million.
Moreover, rates of U.S. insurance coverage only ticked slightly higher to 50% by the end of the fourth quarter, Risinger added.
On an earnings call Thursday, Lilly executives said the company is having trouble keeping Mounjaro production high enough to match patient demand. More manufacturing capacity is being added, with a site in North Carolina expected to start production sometime later this year, CFO Anat Ashkenazi said on the call.
Mounjaro prescription volume was also affected, beginning in November, by changes to Lilly’s drug savings card program. The program is for patients who want to take Mounjaro but whose insurers haven’t begun covering it, and allows them to buy the medicine for $25 a month. However, Lilly had to start requiring people to confirm they have Type 2 diabetes before receiving the discount, restricting it from those seeking it as an obesity treatment, according to the company’s diabetes chief, Michael Mason.
While Mounjaro succeeded in clinical trials for weight loss, the Food and Drug Administration is still reviewing that data ahead of an approval decision expected later this year. Lilly needs to report data from a second study, called SURMOUNT-2, before the FDA can complete that review.
If the Indianapolis-based company wins approval in obesity, it will compete with Novo across two metabolic fronts. Mounjaro is the first once-weekly drug that acts on two different peptides involved in insulin secretion, while Novo has a once-weekly shot that acts on a single peptide. Novo also sells a daily pill.
But within this class of drugs, currently only Novo holds an approval as a weight-loss drug, which has helped bolster its business. On Wednesday, Novo reported 83.4 billion Danish kroner, or $12.3 billion, in 2022 diabetes sales from its three products in this class and another $2.5 billion from the two products it sells as weight loss drugs.
Novo also has run into manufacturing problems, although it was able to resume providing all doses of once-weekly weight-loss shot Wegovy in late 2022.
Overall, the company reported $7.3 billion in revenue during the fourth quarter of 2022, a decline of 9% compared to the same period in 2021. Sales of Lilly’s COVID-19 antibodies, which are no longer authorized for use in the U.S., shrank from $1 billion in fourth quarter of 2021 to just $38 million in the same period in 2022. Excluding COVID-19 treatments, revenue rose 5%.
Lilly shares fell 6% in morning trading Thursday.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional detail from Lilly’s fourth quarter earnings report.