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A New Index Play on the Diet Drug Revolution

A new poll recently published by health policy research firm KFF revealed that roughly 12% of U.S. adults (or one in eight) have taken GLP-1 drugs, a category that includes Wegovy, Ozempic, Zepbound, and Mounjaro. Of those surveyed, 6% are currently taking a drug from that group.

Although many survey participants rely on these medications for other conditions like Type 2 diabetes, 38% are taking them for weight loss. This level of adoption is despite the high cost of these drugs, which runs $1,000 a month before insurance coverage. Patients, health providers, and insurance companies increasingly realize that the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Battling Obesity

Obesity is a global problem affecting more than 1 billion people. The number of adults living with obesity worldwide is more than twice what it was in 1990, with 43% of adults now overweight, the World Health Organization notes. Furthermore, according to Morgan Stanley, there is a macroeconomic toll in addition to the mental and physical consequences for the population. The firm posits that the cost of adverse health outcomes and reduction in productivity whittles 3.6% off the gross domestic product of the U.S.

GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide 1) drugs have been proven effective in promoting weight loss. GLP-1 is a hormone the body produces that is released when a person ingests food. It triggers cells in the pancreas that, in turn, produce insulin, which regulates blood sugar. GLP-1 drugs have been approved since 2005 as a treatment for type-2 diabetes. But new formulations of the drugs for obesity can now promote reductions in body weight by 10-20%.

A Breakthrough Disruption

For patients considering surgical options, GLP-1 drugs are being hailed as a “miracle drug.” They are said to represent a major advancement in public health. This breakthrough status also carries with it the potential to disrupt other companies in health care. It has broad implications for many industries, from medical device makers to the food and beverage industry to airlines. A study looking at United Airlines finds that the company could save 27.6 million gallons of fuel per year, for $80 million, if the average passenger were 10 pounds lighter.

These drugs are not without side effects. However, data from the largest clinical trial of GLP-1’s to date, the SELECT trial of approximately 18,000 non-diabetic participants, is compelling. The study published in November 2023 showed evidence of reduced incidences of heart attacks, strokes, and deaths from cardiovascular disease. Additionally, 73% of patients did not progress to diabetes. Subjects also saw a 19% reduction in all causes of morbidity. For patients, these are no doubt life-changing results.

GLP-1 drugs are a disruptive economic force, with Goldman Sachs estimating the market for GLP-1 drugs will grow to $100 billion by 2030. These new anti-obesity drugs could see a patient population as high as 70 million, resulting in an increase in U.S. GDP levels by as much as 1% in the coming years.

Our Index Approach

VettaFi is excited to launch the first Index, the VettaFi Weight Loss Drug & Treatment Index (THINR), to provide diversified exposure to this disruptive investment theme.

Eli Lilly and NovoNordisk, the Index’s two largest holdings, currently dominate in terms of market share. That said, new market entrants and methods (like pills) are on the way, advocating for a more diversified approach.

The Index comprises 70% of drug developers/manufacturers and 30% of enablers.

  • Drug developers/manufacturers are pharmaceutical and/or biotech companies with either a branded GLP-1 agonist product or a product in the GLP-1 drug development pipeline in FDA clinical trials.
  • Enablers are companies involved with the outsourced development and manufacturing of GLP-1 agonist drugs. These are also known as contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs). These companies conduct measurement and analysis of GLP-1 agonist drugs. This also refers to companies involved in the distribution or administration of GLP-1 agonist drugs. That would include the coordination of prescriptions and drug-delivery mechanisms such as injection pens.

To qualify for inclusion in the Index, companies must be members of the VettaFi S-Network Developed World Equity 5000 Index or the VettaFi Developed World Index and meet a minimum market capitalization requirement of USD 500 million. Constituents are float-adjusted market cap weighted within their segment allocation as outlined in the Index Methodology.

Given the fast-changing nature of the space, the Index is rebalanced on a quarterly basis. More information on our Index and backtested results can be found on VettaFi’s website here.

Since its live index inception on 1/25/24, the Index is up 18% YTD on a total return basis (as of 5/20/24).

An ETF tracking our index launches this week from Amplify ETFs.

For more news, information, and strategy, visit the Disruptive Technology Channel.

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