Wegovy sales double, as starting restrictions start to lift

Wegovy sales double

Novo Nordisk’s breakneck sales growth has continued in the first quarter of this year with a 24% increase that was helped by a doubling in turnover of obesity blockbuster Wegovy.

Group revenues came in at DKK 65.3 billion ($9.3 billion) – ahead of analyst expectations – with GLP-1 agonist Wegovy (semaglutide) contributing DKK 9.4 billion of the total.

Novo Nordisk said it had been able to ease some of the restrictions on the supply of starting doses of Wegovy, starting with the US, that were introduced to try to cope with the massive demand for the drug and ensure available supplies for patients already on treatment.

The drug is now getting around 130,000 weekly prescriptions in the US, with more than 25,000 people starting on it per week during the quarter, according to the update.

Future growth could also be driven by Wegovy's approval in the US in March for cardiovascular risk reduction in people with obesity or who are overweight and have established heart disease, which circumvents restrictions on the reimbursement of drugs used simply for weight-loss purposes in the US.

Semaglutide stable mate Ozempic for diabetes also galloped away, up 43% to DKK 27.8 billion, and Novo Nordisk has now raised its forecasts for the full-year to sales growth of 19% to 27% and operating profits rising in the range of 22% to 30%.

Chief executive Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said he was “pleased with the sales growth in the first three months of 2024, driven by increased demand for our GLP-1-based diabetes and obesity treatments,” adding that the recently agreed $11 billion deal to acquire three manufacturing sites from Catalent “will enable us to serve significantly more people living with diabetes and obesity in the future.”

The update also included some news about Novo Nordisk’s plans to add to its obesity pipeline, including the start of a phase 2 trial of a once-weekly dual GIP/GLP-1 agonist that would be a rival to Eli Lilly’s recently approved Zepbound (tirzepatide) therapy.

The 36-week trial is investigating the safety and efficacy of different doses of GIP/GLP-1 in approximately 350 people with obesity, with a separate study also underway in diabetes.

Earlier this week, Lilly raised its earnings forecasts as well, on the back of rising sales of Zepbound and diabetes therapy Mounjaro, also based on tirzepatide, saying it was seeing the benefit of an increased investment in manufacturing capacity that had started to overcome supply constraints.

Zepbound brought in first-quarter sales of $517 million, ahead of analyst expectations, while Mounjaro added $1.8 billion, more than three times its turnover in the same period of 2023. The company said prescriptions for Zepbound are running at around 63,000 per week, closing the gap with Wegovy, which reached the US market two years earlier.

Image by krzysztof-m from Pixabay