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Fox Business
Fox Business
6 Jan 2024


Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly launched a website this week to connect patients with obesity drugs like Zepbound and Mounjaro. 

LillyDirect is "designed to offer simple, direct options for independent online and in-person care services," according to its website, connecting patients with doctors remotely through telehealth services. 

"The reason for this is when we talk to patients who are seeking these treatments for obesity, whether it be ours or our competitors,’ a lot of people are having a hard time," Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks said, according to The New York Times.

The platform, launched Thursday, will allow patients to directly order drugs from the company.  

Mounjaro boxes

Eli Lilly has launched a telehealth-connected website called EliDirect.  (George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

WW International, previously known as Weight Watchers, and Ro have also started similar telehealth websites that can connect people with weight-loss drugs. 

Doctors who find patients on LillyDirect are not required to prescribe any drugs and are not affiliated with the company. They also don’t get a commission for prescriptions, Eli Lilly says. 

"In our view, the DTC (direct-to-consumer) model is ideal for obesity medications and drives uptake and lowers barriers to new patient starts for Zepbound," he added.

Some experts have concerns over the drugs being prescribed without an in-person visit, however. 

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange % LLYELI LILLY & CO.618.55+4.05+0.66%

"The American College of Physicians (ACP) is concerned by the development of websites that enable patients to order prescription medications directly from the drugmaker," the organization said in a statement this week. "While information on in-person care is available, this direct-to-consumer approach is primarily oriented around the use of telehealth services to prescribe a drugmaker’s products. For telemedicine services to take place responsibly, there should be an established and valid patient-physician relationship, or the care should happen in consultation with a physician who does have an established relationship with the patient."

 

The statement added that patients could be left "confused and misinformed about medications. While efforts to remove barriers to care are important, they should not devalue the proven benefits of the patient-physician relationship." 

Timothy Mackey, a UC San Diego professor, called it "direct-to-consumer advertising," while Dr. Andrew Kraftson at Michigan Medicine told the New York Times he believed it was "disingenuous to think that people are just going to get this totally neutral, balanced care." 

"This isn’t medicine," Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, of Georgetown University Medical Center, told the Times. "Medicine shouldn’t be a consumer good, and treatments shouldn’t be commodities."

Eli Lilly said its drugs, meant for obesity, shouldn’t be used for "cosmetic weight loss," a trend that has concerned medical professionals with obesity drugs like Ozempic.

Reuters contributed to this report.