The Chinese market for GLP-1 drugs to treat diabetes and obesity could grow to US$11.4 billion by 2033.
Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists, or GLP-1 drugs, a sub-category of medication to treat diabetes and obesity, saw sales skyrocket in 2023. Bloomberg’s consensus forecasts the global market of this drug category to grow 21% annually, ultimately surpassing US$100 billion by 2030.
China’s GLP-1 market could grow faster, at 23% annually from 2023 to CNY81 billion (US$11.4 billion) in 2033, according to Nomura estimates. Chinese players could command 20% of the China market for these drugs by then, led by competitive pricing, an immense sales network, and potentially better efficacy to address the demands of China’s vast local population that are increasingly more health aware.
Originally designed to treat type 2 diabetes, GLP-1 drugs are now seen as a supplementary treatment for obesity and weight loss, especially after many celebrities and high-profile influencers endorsed their efficacy. By geography, the US is the largest market for these drugs. China, on the other hand, is still a nascent market but with huge potential.
China accounted for 26% of the global diabetic population, or the largest proportion by country, and the second-largest diabetes-related healthcare expenditures in 2021, according to the International Diabetes Federation. According to Frost & Sullivan, China’s total diabetes drug market could reach CNY168 billion in 2030 from CNY86 billion in 2022. The higher-than-world-average growth in China will be driven by rising awareness and improving disease monitoring as well as better accessibility and affordability for new treatments.
Meanwhile, the World Obesity Atlas estimates China’s population with obesity to rise by 22% from 2020 to reach 300 million in 2030, equivalent to an increase of prevalence rate from 15% in 2020 to 23% in 2030.
In 2022, the 11 globally approved GLP-1 drugs for diabetes had combined revenues of CNY1.21 billion from sample hospitals in China. In the first nine months of 2023, sales jumped 63% year-over-year to CNY1.4 billion. Though two foreign drugmakers accounted for 94% of the sales, an increased number of local players are now entering this field in China, with both innovative and generic GLP-1 candidates scheduled to launch from 2024.
The surging demand for GLP-1 drugs and resulting shortage could benefit the worldwide supply chain. Besides increasing investment into expanding internal production capacity, pharmaceutical companies may also outsource manufacturing capacities from contract research organizations (CROs) and contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) to increase supply faster and cheaper. This could also translate into opportunities for Chinese CROs, CDMOs and their overseas counterparts.
For a deeper look into GLP-1 drugs, read our full report.
Head of China Healthcare Research
China Healthcare analyst
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