Novo Nordisk taps brakes on Wegovy as demand soars

Novo Nordisk taps brakes on Wegovy as demand soars

Novo Nordisk has said it will temporarily reduce production of the lower starting doses of its weight-loss drug Wegovy, as demand for the therapy continues to challenge its ability to supply the market.

The Danish drugmaker said the measure – which effectively restricts new starts on the therapy – is necessary to make sure it has sufficient capacity for the active ingredient semaglutide to safeguard availability for patients already taking the GLP-1 agonist for obesity and/or type 2 diabetes.

The move will be frustrating for Novo Nordisk, given its sky-high sales projections for Wegovy, and comes despite the fact that a new contract manufacturing organisation (CMO) bolstered production of semaglutide starting in April.

In the first quarter of the year, Wegovy sales rocketed to more than DKK 4.5 billion ($666 million), a rise of 225%, while Novo Nordisk’s other semaglutide-based diabetes therapies, Ozempic and Rybelsus, respectively grew 63% to DKK 19.6 billion and 111% to DKK 4.6 billion.

The company’s president and chief executive, Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, said the prescription trend for Wegovy “highlights the high unmet need for people living with obesity.” It relaunched the drug earlier this year after its initial roll-out was also hampered by supply constraints.

The CEO said that additional production lines for the drug at CMO partners would be coming online in the coming months, and work continues on in-house capacity expansion, including a new facility in Denmark first announced two years ago.

He also said that the scale-down in starter dose availability would be short-term, extending a few months, while roll-out of the drug in markets outside the US would be gradual – without being drawn on specific launch dates. Wegovy is so far available only in the US, Denmark and Norway.

In its update, the company also said that new guidance of 24% to 30% sales growth for the full year “reflects expected continued periodic supply constraints and related drug shortage notifications across a number of products and geographies.”

In the meantime, regulatory approvals keep coming in for Wegovy, including an approval in Japan in March and a recommendation to extend its label to include overweight and obese adolescents in the EU in April. It is already approved for this younger age bracket in the US.

Wegovy is likely to face a strong challenge from Eli Lilly’s dual GIP and GLP-1 agonist Mounjaro (tirzepatide), which generated very strong results in the SURMOUNT-2 study last week, but analysts think massive demand for obesity therapies means there will be plenty of room for both in the market.