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Amid Wegovy’s supply woes, Novo Nordisk sees surging demand for its original obesity drug Saxenda

August 7, 2022
Life sciences

After a contract manufacturing snafu in December, supply of Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 med for obesity appears to be back on track in the U.S.—mostly.

Novo’s Wegovy manufacturing partner—which the Danish company previously confirmed to Fierce Pharma as Catalent—restarted production on the med in 2022’s second quarter. As a result, 1.7-mg and 2.4-mg doses of Wegovy are back on tap in the U.S. market, Novo said in a recent investor report. The company added that it expects all Wegovy dose strengths to be available in the U.S. later this year.

To cope with the Wegovy supply squeeze, Novo previously paused sales and marketing on the drug. Now, even though Novo’s contract manufacturer has restarted Wegovy production, “we have experienced a bit lower ramp-up versus planned,” Novo Nordisk’s CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said Wednesday on an earnings call with investors.

These days, Novo is busy ensuring it can reach “sufficient inventory levels” in order to avoid disappointing patients and physicians, he added.

While an Eli Lilly rival could eventually enter the fray, Novo is currently dominating the obesity market—a fact reflected in the company’s sales.

Including revenue from the company’s earlier weight-loss med Saxenda, Novo Nordisk’s obesity sales climbed a staggering 83% at constant currencies during the second quarter. Wegovy pulled down 1.18 billion Danish kroner ($161 million) in 2022’s second quarter, while Saxenda sales grew an impressive 29% to about 2.5 billion Danish kroner ($336 million).

While the supply squeeze on Wegovy has “negatively impacted” prescription trends for that med, as expected, Saxenda trends “have picked up and are now at all-time high levels,” Novo’s North American lead Doug Langa said on Wednesday’s investor call.

Across obesity and diabetes sales, meanwhile, Novo’s entire franchise of GLP-1 meds—which also includes diabetes standout Ozempic and its oral counterpart Rybelsus—has been on an upswing.

That heightened demand, coupled with the company’s recent Wegovy woes, has prompted Novo Nordisk to bake “periodic supply constraint[s]” into its financial forecast, Karsten Munk Knudsen, the company’s chief financial officer, said during Novo’s Wednesday earnings call.

As for GLP-1 production, “we are significantly increasing manufacturing as we go,” Jørgensen added.

“It’s not that we don’t have supply. We keep growing supply to meet a demand that also keeps growing,” Jørgensen said, warning that from “time to time,” the company will face “issues in certain markets,” despite the fact that Novo is pumping out products in a “continuous manner.”

The company has GLP-1 capacity expansions in the works and plans to eventually reach a point where it has “excess capacity,” the CEO added.

For the entire first half of 2022, Novo recorded net sales of 83.29 billion Danish kroner (about $11.36 billion).

Looking ahead, Novo now expects to grow sales 12% to 16% at constant currencies in 2022. The company previously forecasted sales growth between 10% and 14%.

By Fraiser Kansteiner


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