New data from an experimental drug being developed by Eli Lilly & Co. raises an intriguing question about obesity treatments: How low can the weight loss go?

For a subset of patients in a mid-stage study of retatrutide, the answer seems to be very, very low. Most people in a study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine lost nearly a quarter of their body weight, with a subset shedding more than 30% after 48 weeks on a high dose of the drug. The doctors running the trial said some people had yet to "plateau,” suggesting they might shed even more pounds.

These numbers are, frankly, mind-blowing. It was only two years ago that Novo Nordisk rewrote the narrative on weight-loss drugs, which for decades had offered very little benefit and too many side effects, when it showed that people taking Wegovy could lose roughly 15% of their body weight. Then, last year, observers were astonished when Lilly’s tirzepatide elicited nearly 20% weight loss in a Phase 3 study. Now, Lilly’s latest drug has set the bar for weight loss even higher.