Novo Nordisk shrugs off supply issues with record sales
Sales of Novo Nordisk’s fast-growing GLP-1 agonist drugs for diabetes and obesity may be held back by supply constraints, but feverish demand is still driving strong growth.
The Danish pharma group reported sales growth of 33% in the first nine months of the year to DKK 166.4 billion ($23.7 billion), driven by a 58% rise in sales of once-weekly diabetes injection Ozempic (semaglutide) to DKK 65.7 billion.
Meanwhile, obesity therapy Wegovy, based on a higher dose of semaglutide, saw sales rocket from DKK 3.7 billion in the first nine months of 2022 to almost DKK 22 billion, helping Novo Nordisk to a record operating profit up 37% to DKK 75.8 billion.
The performance is remarkable as both Ozempic and Wegovy are subject to rationing at the moment as demand outstrips supply, becoming sought after for their weight-loss properties. In some countries, there are reports of diabetics struggling to access Ozempic as supplies are being diverted for use by overweight patients.
Novo Nordisk is predicting further strong growth but said its forecasts reflect “continued periodic supply constraints and related drug shortage notifications across a number of products and geographies” that will last into 2024 at least.
The company is working to boost “internal and external” manufacturing capacity for Wegovy but said access to lower starting doses of the drug will continue to be restricted to eke out available supplies.
Demand for both drugs is likely to be lifted even further by new outcomes data showing that Ozempic can reduce the risk of chronic kidney disease in patients with type 2 diabetes, while Wegovy has been shown to reduce cardiovascular complications by 20% in overweight or obese patients who had underlying cardiovascular disease, but no prior history of diabetes.
Applications to add the cardiovascular claim to Wegovy’s label have been filed in the US and Europe, and the filing has been fast-tracked by the FDA. The Ozempic CKD data, meanwhile, is heading for a final readout next year, with regulatory submissions likely following thereafter.
There had been hopes for good news on the shortages in the update, but the robust growth reassured investors and shares in Novo Nordisk rose sharply after the third-quarter results update.
In other R&D news, Novo Nordisk said it had started phase 1 testing of a once-weekly subcutaneous amycretin injection, another obesity candidate, monoclonal antibody ANGPTL3i for cardiovascular disease, and a STAT3-targeting RNA interference candidate for cancer.
Lilly’s Mounjaro also growing strongly
Also this morning, Eli Lilly reported big sales gains for its dual GLP-1/GIP agonist Mounjaro (tirzepatide) for diabetes, up more than 200% to just under $3 billion in the first nine months of the year – including $1.4 billion in the third quarter alone – ahead of an anticipated filing for obesity.
The drug helped Lilly to a 37% increase in third-quarter revenues to %9.5 billion, although there were signs of pressure on Ozempic rival Trulicity (dulaglutide), down 10% in the third quarter to $1.67 billion. On the plus side, CDK4/6 inhibitor Verzenio (abemaciclib) grew 68% in the three-month period to top $1 billion, fuelled by expanded use in early-stage breast cancer.