The Next Blockbuster

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Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology, December 2022, Volume 46, Issue 12

Anti-obesity drugs have the potential to be the next blockbusters, according to market analysis.

The festive time of year is fast approaching once again when many of us will be enjoying a period of being cosy indoors and, perhaps, over-indulging on rich, delicious food. For those with younger members of the family too, it can be a time where there is eager anticipation for a rather rotund—some might say obese—gentleman to pay a visit, via the chimney, to deliver gifts.

Leaving the presents in the very capable hands of Santa, Big Pharma have their eyes set on a different prize, namely the anti-obesity drug market. According to research from Morgan Stanley, anti-obesity drugs may offer companies the next blockbuster opportunity, with the weight-management medicines market forecasted to reach a value of US$54 billion (€52.1 billion) over the next 10 years (1).

Despite obesity being recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a chronic disease back in 1997 (2), it wasn’t until 2013 when the American Medical Association officially classed obesity as a disease (3), and even later still, in June 2021, when the European Commission followed suit (4). As a result of the differing stances on obesity over recent years, there has been a lack of harmonization from the part of policy makers and researchers.

However, the tides are changing and as the medical understanding of obesity broadens around the world, so too have research efforts. A key player in the arena is Novo Nordisk, who gained regulatory wins for its new generation weight loss drug, Wegovy (semaglutide), in 2021 (5). Closely following Novo’s tailwinds is Eli Lilly with Mounjaro (tirzepatide), which recently received fast-track designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (6). Both these products are glucagon-like peptide-1 agonist drugs that target the patient’s appetite regulation in the brain.


As other big companies also start to ‘weigh’ in on the anti-obesity field, such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca, in addition to other smaller biotechs, the market projections seem to be well-founded and likely to come to fruition. Perhaps by 2030, Santa will no longer be getting stuck up the chimney and instead will be enjoying a slimmer frame.


1. Morgan Stanley, “Why Obesity Drugs May be a New Blockbuster Pharma Category,” Research, 19 Aug. 2022.
2. WHO, Obesity: Preventing and Managing the Global Epidemic, Report of a WHO Consultation on Obesity (Geneva, Switzerland, 3–5 June 1997),, 19 June 1998.
3. A. Pollack, “A.M.A. Recognizes Obesity as a Disease,” New York Times, 18 June 2013.
4. T. Burki, The Lancet, 9 (7) 418 (2021).
5. Novo Nordisk, “Wegovy Recommended for Approval for the Treatment of Obesity by the European Regulatory Authorities,” Press Release, 11 Nov. 2021.
6. Eli Lilly, “Lilly Receives US FDA Fast Track designation for Tirzepatide for the Treatment of Adults with Obesity, or Overweight with Weight-Related Comorbidities,” Press Release, 6 Oct. 2022.

About the author

Felicity Thomas is the European/senior editor for Pharmaceutical Technology Group.

Article details

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe
Vol. 34, No. 12
December 2022
Page: 6


When referring to this article, please cite it as F. Thomas, “The Next Blockbuster,” Pharmaceutical Technology Europe 34 (12) 2022.