Novo Nordisk is taking a cautious approach to rolling out its obesity drug Wegovy in new markets as demand surges, the company said Thursday.
Since the drug was approved in June last year in the U.S. and Europe for weight loss, the Danish firm has seen demand for the product soar, fueled by social media influencers. At the same time, supplies have been impacted by a manufacturing pause.
For Novo, the priority is to ensure that patients who start treatment can attain the highest maintenance dose of 2.4 milligrams, which requires increasing the dose four times over five months.
CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen told an analysts’ call Thursday that the best way to ensure that all patients started on the treatment can reach the highest dosage and achieve weight-loss results “is of course not to start more patients than we can secure continuity of care, and then furthermore not to launch in more [markets] than we can support.”
To safeguard continuity of care, the supply of the lower Wegovy dose strengths in the U.S. will be reduced temporarily, the Danish firm said in a statement.
To date, Novo has launched Wegovy in the U.S., Denmark, Norway and Germany, Camilla Sylvest, head of commercial strategy and corporate affairs at the company, told analysts. Wegovy was introduced in Germany via a disease management program for those most in need, she said.
The company will introduce Wegovy in other markets “in a manner that is of course responsible, observing the uptake and demand,” Sylvest said. Ensuring patient continuity “is really the most important part of how we roll out Wegovy in more and more countries,” she added. The executives made no mention of planned launches in other European countries.
Supplies have been beset by a manufacturing squeeze, resulting from a regulatory intervention at contractor Catalent’s site in Brussels last year.
Novo Nordisk has brought a second Catalent facility on line to help ramp up production. CEO Jørgensen told analysts: “Our supply is going to plan in terms of getting new lines on track.”
Novo recorded sales of 12 billion Danish krone (€1.6 billion) for Wegovy (semaglutide) in the first half of the year, compared with 2.5 billion krone (€336 million) for the same period a year earlier.
In addition, the company’s three diabetes drugs that also contain semaglutide which have been on the market for longer — Ozempic, Victoza and Rybelsus — saw sales jump 49 percent compared with the first six months of last year, to 54.7 billion krone (€7.3 billion).