Novo Nordisk plans to launch its popular weight-loss drug Wegovy in more countries, CEO Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen announced Friday, despite shortages caused by booming demand for the drug.
Novo is planning to launch Wegovy, one of the brand names for a drug called semaglutide (also sold as Ozempic), despite dealing with continuing shortages that have prompted the company to restrict supplies in existing markets like the U.S., Jorgensen told a Reuters Newsmaker event.
The executive did not say which countries are next in line to receive the drug, adding launches would be “constrained” so as to manage the twin challenges of launching in a new market and meeting soaring demand in existing markets the company is already unable to meet.
Jorgensen estimated Novo is dealing with an estimated market of around a billion patients around the world for the drug, which he said is a “very unusual situation” for a pharma firm given the typically well defined populations new drugs are designed to serve.
He admitted it could “take quite some years” for the company to fully satisfy the market.
Jorgensen said he was confident Catalent, the company’s troubled contractor for the drug, would be able to resolve its manufacturing issues.
Very few companies would be able to produce a product like Wegovy at scale, Jorgensen said, adding that Novo hopes to bring on a third external filling and finishing facility for the injector pens in the second half of 2023.
Jorgensen has repeatedly responded to criticism over the company’s failure to meet demand for Wegovy by emphasizing how different the drug’s launch has been to other pharmaceutical products. He repeated this line of thought on Friday: “I think it would probably be hard to find any other examples in drug history of anything that has been ramped as much,” he said.
The success of Wegovy has catapulted Novo Nordisk into one of the most valuable companies in Europe. The Danish firm, which was already a major insulin manufacturer, has struggled to meet burgeoning demand for the drug and its ongoing failure to address the supply constraints have raised questions whether Novo can keep up in existing markets, let alone in new ones. Supplies for starting doses have been limited in the U.S. for months in order to preserve access for people already using it and there have been effective delays to its product launches in other major markets like the U.K. and Europe. Restrictions on starter doses in the U.S. are expected to extend into 2024. The nascent weight-loss drug market is shaping up to be one of the most profitable in the pharma industry and demand could grow as insurers and public health providers assess whether to fund the medications. Obesity is a major public health problem and the drugs could help cut the risk of a broad number of health risks like diabetes and heart disease. Under the name Ozempic, semaglutide is also used to help people with diabetes control their blood sugar.
Wegovy Shortage: Supplies Of Weight-Loss Drug Remain Restricted Amid Booming Sales (Forbes)