India's Cipla open to partnering with Eli Lilly to market their obesity drugs, CEO says

By Rishika Sadam and Kashish Tandon

HYDERABAD/BENGALURU (Reuters) -Cipla is open to partnering with U.S. drugmaker Eli Lilly to market its blockbuster obesity treatment drugs in India, the company's CEO said on Friday.

'Absolutely and always open...we value our partnership with Lilly tremendously and I think the two companies are culturally aligned," Cipla's Global CEO Umang Vohra said in response to a Reuters query.

Global demand has outpaced supply for Lilly's Mounjaro and Zepbound as well as Danish rival Novo Nordisk's Wegovy and Ozempic. They belong to a therapy area of GLP-1 receptor agonists, developed to control blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes, but have gained popularity for their role in weight loss.

Sensing the market opportunity, Indian drugmakers, including Cipla, are working to develop their copycat versions of the weight-loss drugs to aggressively grab a larger share in the market in the world's most populous country.

Lilly, in February, told Reuters that it expects to launch Mounjaro, its blockbuster diabetes drug and wildly popular obesity treatment, in India as early as next year.

Cipla, India's third-largest drugmaker by sales, has an existing partnership with Lilly to sell and promote the latter's diabetes drugs in India.

"We've now got a very nice relationship with Lilly over the insulin range we sell for them," Vohra said, adding that the company is prepping for new launches in the U.S., India and South Africa this year.

Meanwhile, Cipla's fourth-quarter revenue of 61.63 billion rupees ($738.4 million) missed analysts' expectations of 62.41 billion rupees, per LSEG, sending its shares down as much as 3.1%. They trimmed some losses and were last down 1.6%.

"Revenue was below consensus mainly due to weakness in India consumer business," said Shrikant Akolkar, an analyst Nuvama Institutional Equities.

The company reported a 78.5% increase in net profit to 9.39 billion rupees, above analysts' estimate of 8.11 billion rupees.

($1 = 83.4690 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Rishika Sadam and Kashish Tandon in Bengaluru; Editing by Sonia Cheema)