Eli Lilly strikes deal with Amazon: Will the ecommerce giant become go-to destination for GLP-1s?

By Isabel Cameron

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Eli lilly Amazon Novo nordisk Diabetes

Eli Lilly is partnering with ecommerce titan Amazon to deliver its weight loss drug Zepbound straight to patient’s doors, in a bid to address ongoing shortages.

This marks the first time Amazon has partnered with a big pharma company since it launched its online pharmacy business back in 2020.  

The tie-up is part of Eli Lilly’s LillyDirect service, launched back in January, which aims to ‘simplify the process’ when accessing these medications, after some patients reported ‘driving to five, six, seven pharmacies to find the medicine they need’ CEO David Ricks said at the time.

“To help patients being treated for diabetes​, obesity, and migraine, Amazon Pharmacy is now offering home delivery of select medications through LillyDirect. Lilly has selected Amazon Pharmacy to serve as a third-party dispensing provider for LillyDirect Pharmacy Solutions, delivering prescribed Lilly medications directly to a patient’s home,” Amazon said in a press release.

Stock prices of both companies rose slightly during the early trading session after the news was announced.

With rival Novo Nordisk also struggling to meet demand​, the move may help Eli Lilly navigate shortages and get ahead of its competitor. 

“Healthcare in the US is extremely complicated with a lot of entrenched interests so Lilly partnering with Amazon is something of a breakthrough,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail.

“Big pharma endorsing Amazon as a distribution partner bolsters Amazon’s role in healthcare and could be the start of many more of these arrangements.”

While patients buying these medications online must still have a prescription from a healthcare provider, having an online service will ensure ‘confidence in the supply’, Ricks added.

The move indicates that the head-to-head competition between Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk is heating up, with Lilly significantly expanding its online power, said Costanza Alciatipharma analyst at GlobalData.

“LillyDirect is not only an online pharmacy allowing access to Eli Lilly’s medications (upon prescription), but it also offers online services such as management resources and doctors consultations, which in the US are hard to get access to,” she added.

“Following the high demand for weight-loss drugs, distributing those medicines directly to the patient’s home is thought to also mitigate the black market issue of illegitimate copies of weight-loss jabs being sold to patients.”

Through Amazon Pharmacy, consumers will also have 24/7 access to a clinical pharmacist.

"For many patients who start using insulin, or injectable medications for migraine or obesity, this will be the first time they administer an injection. Amazon pharmacists can support medication management by providing guidance on administration techniques, drug interactions, side effects, and cost considerations," commented Dr. Vin Gupta, chief medical officer at Amazon Pharmacy.

Pursuing a direct-to-consumer approach may streamline and improve Eli Lilly’s supply chain and give the company an edge​ in the weight loss drugs market.

“Eli Lilly’s new GLP-1 receptor agonist Zepbound generated $175.8 million in the US from the date of its approval in November to the end of the year, and with Amazon’s fast delivery and discounts on medications, Eli Lilly’s sales are expected to skyrocket in the coming year,” Alciati added.

“Surely, by facilitating its medicines access in the world’s biggest obesity market, Eli Lilly made a great move to promote Zepbound’s utilization over competitor Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy, which is still facing shortages issues in the major markets.”

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