Britain considers offering Lilly weight-loss drug on better terms than Wegovy

By Patrick Wingrove

(Reuters) - Britain's medical costs regulator on Tuesday recommended Eli Lilly's weight-loss drug Mounjaro for some patients with obesity and suggested not placing a time limit on the medicine's use as it had for rival Novo Nordisk's Wegovy.

Once approved, the draft recommendations from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) would provide a roadmap under which Britain's National Health Service (NHS) could offer Mounjaro as an alternative to Wegovy.

In its draft roadmap for Mounjaro, known chemically as tirzepatide and sold in the U.S. for weight loss as Zepbound, NICE said the drug could be used in patients with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 35 and at least one weight-related co-morbidity, such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease.

The regulator last year recommended Wegovy for the same patient population but said it could only be taken "for a maximum of two years" through the NHS's specialist weight management scheme - matching the length patients were on the drug in Novo's pivotal clinical trial.

NICE's committee found it "was not appropriate to include a long-term stopping rule for tirzepatide," although it recommended considering stopping treatment if patients lose less than 5% of their initial weight after 6 months, according to the document.

Lilly and Novo are vying to make their drugs more easily accessible to patient populations globally as they ramp up production to meet soaring demand and compete in a market that many analysts now expect to reach $150 billion by the early 2030s.

Both Mounjaro and Wegovy are already available privately in the UK for patients with a BMI of 30 or over and patients with a BMI of 27 or more who also have another weight-related health problem such as high blood pressure.

Outside the U.S., Lilly has launched Mounjaro for obesity in Britain, Germany, Poland, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to the company.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that two doses of Mounjaro and Zepbound are now available that were expected to be in limited supply through the second quarter of this year.

NICE also recommended use of Mounjaro for patients with a lower BMI from several ethnic backgrounds including Black African and South Asian.

The regulator said it expected to finalize the roadmap on Oct. 30 after a public comment period.

(Reporting by Patrick Wingrove; Editing by Bill Berkrot)