Public Health

Wegovy-maker Novo Nordisk extends curb on supply of weight-loss drug, raises outlook

A selection of injector pens for the Saxenda weight loss drug are shown in this photo illustration in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 31, 2023. 

Jim Vondruska | Reuters

Novo Nordisk, which makes blockbuster drug Wegovy, raised its outlook for 2023 Thursday but said it is extending supply restrictions for some doses of the weight-loss drug.

The Danish pharmaceutical company reported a 30% increase in sales, at constant exchange rates, for the first half of this year to 107.7 million Danish kroner ($15.9 million). Net profit increased 43%, coming in at 39.2 million kroner.

The company’s diabetes and obesity division performed particularly well, bolstered by interest in its blockbuster injection Wegovy.

Shares initially rose in pre-market trading, but then flipped to trade almost 2% lower.

“The [sales] growth is driven by increasing demand for our GLP-1-based diabetes and obesity treatments, and we are serving more patients than ever before,” Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, president and CEO, said in a statement. “The performance in the first six months has enabled us to raise the outlook for the full year.”

For 2023, the company now anticipates sales growth of 27%-33% and operating profit growth of 31%-37%, at constant exchange rates.

Wegovy supply restrictions

High demand for Wegovy has led the company to cut the supply of starter doses of the drug as it strives to keep up with orders.

On Thursday, Novo Nordick confirmed that it will continue to restrict the lower-dose strengths.

Its outlook “reflects expected continued periodic supply constraints and related drug shortage notifications across a number of products and geographies,” the company said.

“Novo Nordisk is investing in internal and external capacity to increase supply both short and long term. While supply capacity for [Wegovy] is gradually being expanded, the supply of the lower dose strengths in the US will remain restricted to safeguard continuity of care.”

Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen further stressed a potential supply crunch of Wegovy in the near future. In comments reported by Reuters, he signaled significant demand for the weight-loss drug will outstrip availabilities in the foreseeable future and said that the company will likely have limits of availability of Wegovy into 2024.

Last week, late-stage trial data showed that Wegovy reduced the risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attacks or strokes by 20%, compared with a placebo, sending shares higher.

The results of the closely watched “SELECT” trial, which exceeded expectations, were seen as a major boost for the company’s hopes of moving beyond Wegovy’s image as a “vanity drug.”

The active ingredient in Wegovy is semaglutide, an FDA-approved drug that works by imitating a naturally-occurring gut hormone that helps to regulate appetite.

— Sam Meredith contributed to this report.

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