Eli Lilly announces multibillion-euro German plant to scale up obesity drug production
Eli Lilly and Company, the American pharmaceutical giant, has announced plans to establish its first production facility in Germany, situated in the western town of Alzey, with an investment of 2.3 billion euros ($2.5 billion). This move, initially reported by Reuters, comes in response to the rapidly escalating demand for innovative diabetes and obesity treatments. The strategic investment will expand the production capabilities for key diabetes and obesity medications, including Mounjaro and Trulicity, as well as the injection devices required for their administration.
On Friday, Eli Lilly highlighted the significant role Germany’s skilled workforce will play in enhancing the company’s supply of incretin-based treatments, with the site expected to become operational in 2027. Incretins, a class of peptide-based medications like Mounjaro, are designed to mimic intestinal hormones that curb appetite and promote insulin release.
The expansion of Eli Lilly’s manufacturing footprint into Germany aligns with broader industry trends, where pharmaceutical companies are facing mounting political pressure to localise the production of critical healthcare products. The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the fragility of global supply chains, prompting a reevaluation of manufacturing strategies to better serve market demands.
The German Health Minister, Karl Lauterbach, expressed his support for the investment at a press briefing in Berlin. He underscored the importance of this development for Germany’s stature as a pharmaceutical hub, emphasising the potential for more rapid access to novel treatments and reduced reliance on precarious supply chains.
The selection of Alzey as the site for this new production complex was influenced by several factors, including the availability of a skilled workforce, the existing infrastructure, and the prospect of creating a manufacturing nexus in conjunction with Eli Lilly’s existing site in Fegersheim, France. Edgardo Hernandez, the head of manufacturing at Eli Lilly, pointed out Germany’s rich heritage in engineering and science, as well as the proximity to numerous equipment manufacturers, as pivotal in the site selection process.
Mounjaro is on the cusp of gaining approval for weight loss treatment in the European Union, following the EU drugs regulator’s recommendation for its approval. However, Germany’s public health insurance currently does not cover weight-loss medications, meaning that patients seeking Mounjaro for non-diabetic weight loss will likely have to bear the costs independently. Minister Lauterbach indicated that there are no immediate plans to reassess these regulations.
Over the past three years, Eli Lilly has made public commitments exceeding $11 billion towards global manufacturing. In their third-quarter financial disclosure, the company earmarked over $8 billion for expansion projects in Indiana, North Carolina, and Limerick, Ireland, over the coming years. Despite this, Eli Lilly anticipates continued supply constraints while it ramps up manufacturing capacity. Concurrently, the firm has appealed to medical professionals outside the United States to halt new patient prescriptions of Trulicity due to heightened demand.
This investment announcement occurs amidst vigorous debate over the European Union’s proposal to reduce the standard period for market exclusivity, prompting Eli Lilly to invest strategically in the region and partake in shaping industry dialogue.
Eli Lilly, with a longstanding presence in Germany since 1960 and a current workforce of 1,000 employees in various domains, anticipates the new Alzey facility will create up to 1,000 high-calibre jobs for engineers, technicians, and scientists, further reinforcing the company’s commitment to innovation and healthcare advancement.