Lilly's weight-loss drug Mounjaro coming to UK after pen cleared

FILE PHOTO: Mounjaro is displayed in a pharmacy in Provo

By Ludwig Burger

FRANKFURT (Reuters) -Eli Lilly said on Thursday it would bring the Mounjaro drug against obesity and diabetes to British patients within weeks after winning clearance for pre-filling it into an injection pen.

In a statement, the U.S. drugmaker added the go-ahead from the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) would make Britain the first major market to be supplied with the drug in the multi-shot pen for added convenience, branded as Kwikpen.

"This will enable Lilly to begin supply to the UK within weeks," said Laura Steele, head of UK and Northern Europe at the drugmaker.

Julian Beach, MHRA interim executive director for healthcare quality and access, said the pen would allow for convenient use and be good for a month’s treatment of one subcutaneous shot per week.

The drug itself was cleared for weight loss by the British regulator in November, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also gave its approval for the wider use under the Zepbound brand. The U.S. drugmaker put the UK product launch on hold while the injector pen was still under regulatory review.

Tirzepatide is the active ingredient in Mounjaro, which will compete with Novo Nordisk's Wegovy (semaglutide) injection drug in a booming weight-loss market. Both are cleared for weight loss in combination with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.

Lilly previously said the injection device would be different from the pen Lilly uses for the weight-loss drug in the United States.

The company has also said that the pen would be for both type 2 diabetes and obesity patients in Britain. The class of drugs that Mounjaro and Wegovy belong to was originally developed to treat type 2 diabetes but was found to also promote weight loss by suppressing appetite and slowing down digestion.

Other European markets - Germany, Switzerland and Poland - have seen Mounjaro launched before Britain. In those countries, the drug has for now been packaged in vials and patients need to draw the medication into syringes before injection.

Lilly has told Reuters it was hoping to get the go-ahead in Europe to pre-fill the Kwikpen with Mounjaro by the middle of this year.

Nearly one in three adults are obese in Britain, the highest rate in Europe, according to a 2019 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report.

Overweight-related illnesses account for 8.4% of health expenditure and when combined with lower labour market output, it reduces UK economic output by 3.4%, it said. Obesity is usually defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by David Evans, Bill Berkrot and Tomasz Janowski)