Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical company, is aiming to persuade European governments to cover the cost of its obesity drug, Wegovy, for individuals who are severely overweight or have co-morbidities. Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen, the CEO of Novo Nordisk, highlighted the medical and cost benefits of the treatment as he outlined the company’s strategy for expansion in Europe. Wegovy is the first drug of its kind in a new class of highly effective weight-loss medications and, when combined with changes in diet and exercise, it leads to an average weight loss of around 15%.
Since the launch of Wegovy in the United States two years ago, Novo Nordisk has experienced a significant increase in its share value, with a surge of approximately 165%. The drug has garnered attention from patients, investors, and even celebrities. Earlier this month, the Danish drugmaker raised its full-year profit and sales forecasts for the second time. Mr. Jorgensen acknowledged that Novo Nordisk is in uncharted territory, as the company is dealing with a potential patient population of around one billion worldwide. He acknowledged that it will take several years before the company can fully meet the demand.
Analysts estimate that the obesity market could be worth up to $100 billion (€92 billion) by the end of the decade, as the race to develop weight-loss drugs intensifies. Novo Nordisk and its US competitor, Eli Lilly, are expected to claim the largest share of the market. However, other companies such as Amgen, Pfizer, and smaller biotech firms are also working on developing weight-loss medications.
Wegovy has been in high demand since its launch in the US in June 2021, where over 40% of the population is classified as obese. Novo Nordisk has struggled to keep up with the demand, despite increasing its production capacity. The company has learned from its experiences in Denmark and Norway that it is crucial to collaborate with health authorities to ensure that Wegovy reaches the individuals who need it the most, as governments cannot afford to cover the cost for every obese person in their population. However, it appears that many individuals are willing to pay for Wegovy out of their own pockets.
Novo Nordisk plans to introduce Wegovy in more countries, although specific locations and timelines have not been disclosed. The company is working to manage these launches effectively. Novo Nordisk has also faced challenges with its contract manufacturer, Catalent. In July, Reuters reported that Catalent’s factory in Brussels, responsible for filling Wegovy injection pens, had repeatedly violated US sterile-safety regulations in recent years, and staff had failed to perform necessary quality checks.
It is evident that Novo Nordisk is dedicated to expanding the availability of Wegovy across Europe, aiming to secure government coverage for the drug for those who are severely overweight or have co-morbidities. The success of Wegovy in the US and the projected growth of the obesity market highlight the potential impact of this medication in addressing a significant public health concern. As Novo Nordisk continues to navigate this uncharted territory, collaboration with health authorities and effective management of launches will be crucial to meet the demand and provide access to this innovative weight-loss treatment.