Lilly expects strong 2024 profit on rising demand for weight-loss drug

(Reuters) -Eli Lilly forecast 2024 profit above Wall Street expectations on Tuesday on soaring demand for its weight-loss drug, and said the treatment helped reduce symptoms of a fatty liver disease in a mid-stage trial.

The company’s shares rose nearly 5% in premarket trading after gaining about 11% in January. It is the eighth largest company in the U.S. by market capitalization.

Explosive demand for diabetes drug Mounjaro and weight-loss treatment Zepbound led investors to buy Lilly’s stock last year, propelling the drugmaker’s market value to over $600 billion and making it the world’s most valuable healthcare company.

Lilly said tirzepatide, the active ingredient in the drugs, also met the main goal in a study for a type of fatty liver disease called metabolic dysfunction-associated steatohepatitis.

The drug helped as much as 73.9% of patients achieve absence of the disease with no worsening of liver scarring at 52 weeks, compared to 13% of patients on placebo.

Lilly and its main rival in the obesity market Novo Nordisk are also testing their treatments for other health benefits such as obstructive sleep apnea and chronic kidney disease to secure wider coverage for the medicines.

Lilly said it will expand its manufacturing, but given the strong demand and the time required to bring the capacity fully online, it expects that demand for its diabetes and obesity drugs to outpace supply in 2024.

Lilly has been investing in manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and Europe to ramp up supply of tirzepatide, announcing in November it would build its first plant in Germany for 2.3 billion euros ($2.47 billion).

Lilly said it expects adjusted annual earnings of $12.20 to $12.70 per share. Analysts had forecast a profit of $12.43 per share, according to LSEG data.

Quarterly sales of the diabetes drug Mounjaro rose to $2.21 billion from $279.2 million last year.

Zepbound brought in $175.8 million in its first few weeks of its launch in early December. The drug was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November.

(Reporting by Bhanvi Satija and Leroy Leo in Bengaluru and Patrick Wingrove in New York; Editing by Arun Koyyur)