General Industry Update

Eli Lilly’s potent weight-loss medication, Zepbound, passed Novo Nordisk’s rival drug, Wegovy, new prescriptions in the U.S. for the first time during the week of March 8. Novo Nordisk, however, maintained its overall lead in total weekly prescriptions. This growth by Zepbound is impressive, given that it was launched only in December by Lilly, more than two years after Wegovy received approval in June 2021.

Analysts foresee a burgeoning market for weight-loss treatments, estimated to reach $100 billion by the decade’s end, with demand outpacing supply due to the effectiveness of these new treatments.¹

Both Lilly and Novo are in a full-on sprint to ramp up production. In February, Lilly’s CFO announced “the most ambitious expansion agenda“ in the company’s history to meet demand.² Also in February, Novo announced plans to buy three manufacturing plants for $11 billion.³

GlobalData predicts GLP-1 drugs such as Zepbound and Wegovy will surpass the most widely used cancer immunotherapies as best-selling medicines this year. These drugs have shown efficacy in treating various health conditions beyond obesity, with the FDA in March approving Wegovy for reducing the risk of a variety of healthcare concerns, including stroke and heart attack in overweight adults. GlobalData anticipates that the market for such medications will reach $105 billion by 2029, with Novo Nordisk poised to capture more than half the market. GlobalData forecasts Lilly’s diabetes drug, Mounjaro, with the same active ingredient as Zepbound, to be the single top-selling GLP-1 drug, reaching $33.4 billion in annual sales by 2029.

Also in March, Novo Nordisk announced plans to launch a pill form of its experimental weight-loss drug, amycretin, this decade, which could be a game-changer in a market where the current class of weight-loss drugs require injection.⁴

Company Specific Updates

AstraZeneca PLC

In March, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control study revealed that AstraZeneca and Sanofi’s newly introduced antibody therapy, Beyfortus, was 90% effective in preventing hospitalizations of infants linked to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This marks the first real-world data demonstrating the therapy’s effectiveness in safeguarding infants during their initial exposure season to RSV. The U.S. health regulator approved the therapy in July 2023.

The study, analyzing approximately 700 hospitalized infants with RSV between October 2023 and February 2024, found that 8% of them had received the therapy at least seven days before showing symptoms. Despite limited data, the CDC noted that these early estimates align with current recommendations for the therapy’s use in infants below eight months old during their first RSV season, as well as in vulnerable children aged 8-19 months during subsequent seasons.

The CDC attributed the shorter surveillance period and constrained therapy supply to the introduction of Beyfortus in August 2023. However, with increasing availability, the CDC plans to continue evaluating the therapy’s effectiveness throughout the entire RSV season. RSV, a widespread respiratory virus, remains a significant cause of infant hospitalizations.⁵

Pfizer Inc

Pfizer announced in March that its drug Adcetris demonstrated prolonged survival rates in patients with the most prevalent form of lymphoma during a late-stage study. This development strengthens Pfizer’s efforts to broaden the application of the treatment, acquired through a $43 billion acquisition of Seagen in 2023. Pfizer acquired Seagen specifically for its targeted cancer therapies to fortify its pipeline in the face of waning COVID-19-related sales.

Pfizer reported $46 million in total sales from the drug last year thanks to its commercialization rights for Adcetris in the U.S. and Canada. The company intends to seek regulatory approval for treating the kinds of patients who participated in the study. If successful, approval for treating the most common type of lymphoma will mark the drug’s eighth such approval, enhancing Pfizer’s oncology portfolio with over 25 approved therapies.

The late-stage trial of 230 patients showed that a combination therapy involving Adcetris and two other drugs significantly extended survival compared to a placebo. Additionally, compared to a combination of two other drugs plus placebo, Adcetris demonstrated improvements in secondary study goals, including progression-free survival and overall response rate.⁶

LIFE ETF: An Easy Way to Invest in Global Healthcare

Investing in ETFs can be one way to add cutting-edge healthcare to your portfolio.

Evolve Global Healthcare Enhanced Yield Fund (LIFE ETF) provides investors with exposure to twenty global blue-chip companies in the healthcare industry, with a covered call strategy that is actively managed to provide increased yield potential while helping mitigate risk. For more information about the Evolve Global Healthcare Enhanced Yield Fund or any of Evolve ETF’s lineup of exchange-traded funds, please visit our website or contact us.

Portfolio Strategy and Activity

For the month, Novo Nordisk A/S made the largest contribution to the Fund, followed by Bristol Myers Squibb and Medtronic PLC. The largest detractors to performance for the month were Abbott Labs, followed by Johnson & Johnson and Danaher Corp.



  1. Wingrove, P., “Lilly weight-loss drug Zepbound new US prescriptions surpass Wegovy for first time,” Reuters, March 15, 2024;
  2. Muller, M., “Lilly Vies With Novo to Meet Demand for Weight-Loss Therapies,” Bloomberg, February 6, 2024;
  3. Kresge, N. & Wienberg, C., “Novo Buys Three Plants for $11 Billion to Boost Wegovy Output,” Bloomberg, February 5, 2024;
  4. Wingrove, P., “Lilly weight-loss drug Zepbound new US prescriptions surpass Wegovy for first time,” Reuters, March 15, 2024;
  5. Roy, S., “Astra-Sanofi’s RSV therapy 90% effective against infant hospitalizations, CDC study shows,” Reuters, March 7, 2024;
  6. Jain, P., “Pfizer’s blood cancer therapy Adcetris succeeds in late-stage trial,” Reuters, March 12, 2024;


Header image source: Getty Images Credit: Peter Dazeley

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