With Novo Nordisk’s anti-obesity Wegovy, sales start to pick up in December. Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) Wegovy’s total scripts topped 37,000 weekly in mid-January, a hockey stick rise from year-end levels below 15,000 weekly.
The new prescriptions come on top of Novo’s overall rate of obesity drug sales in 2022, although supply-constrained Wegovy was only a fraction of that at the time. Sibling obesity med Saxenda accounted for DKK 10.7 billion ($1.58 billion), or about 63%, of total DKK 16.9 billion ($2.49 billion) in Novo Nordisk’s reported obesity segment sales. did.
And the future looks brighter in obesity.
CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said, “We know that there is reduced demand.” “Honestly, it’s for us to measure it. Obviously, we are impressed by the trend line we see, but we also believe that it will normalize.”
CFO Karsten Munk Knudsen said Novo had forecast sales growth of 13% to 19%, with a “large part” attributed to Wegovy.
Executives were careful that while GLP-1 supplies have rebounded, they still expect “periodic supply constraints” next year.
For the full year 2022, Novo Nordisk reported total sales of DKK 177 billion (approximately USD 26 billion), an increase of 16% compared to 2021.
Diabetes drugs accounted for the bulk of Novo Nordisk’s revenue, with GLP-1 leading the way in terms of sales growth.
Sales of GLP-1 drugs for type 2 diabetes – the trio of Ozempic, Victoza and Rybelsus – will grow by 57% to DKK 26.2 billion ($3.87 billion) in 2022. The large GLP-1 gain helped offset the cascade of losses in other insulins. Increase Novo Nordisk’s diabetes care revenues by 10% and total global sales of DKK 139.5 billion ($20.58 billion) in long-acting (down 1%), premixed (down 9%) and human insulin (down 18%) sales categories incl. .
Novo Nordisk said it currently has 50.3% of the total US market share for GLP-1 prescriptions in both obesity and diabetes, according to the latest January data.
One potential bright spot in Novo’s insulin portfolio is its insulin codex, a once-weekly candidate in diabetes. It plans to file for US, Canadian and EU approval in the first half of this year, and Novo sees the drug as a potential standard of care for newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients, according to Camilla Sylvest, head of commercial strategy. and a convenient – and environmentally friendly – way to administer insulin.
Meanwhile, Novo’s forecast for Wegovy is DKK 25 billion ($3.69 billion) by 2025, but at least one analyst questioned whether that was conservative.
Citigroup analyst Peter Verdult did a somewhat rough estimate, noting that with Wegovy approaching 40,000 scripts a week, that means about $2 billion in sales over the course of a year. As for what might be possible for 2023, he asked if “captured demand” and Wegovy’s active promotion could increase sales to $3 billion to $4 billion.
Knudsen pointed to Novo’s estimated growth of 13% to 19%, with much of that coming from Wegovy.
“That 19% is not a magic ceiling in terms of our guidance — it’s largely a function of products, geographies and timing,” he said, adding that Novo is expanding production with one line to be added in the first half and another. the second half.
He also cautioned, “We do not have unlimited capacity and therefore trading in the vertical TRx purchase is not possible. That’s why we say be careful with the first data points, because they are affected by the unexpected demand that Doug (Langa, president and head of North American operations) talked about.
The elephant in the room was the ongoing question of the off-label use of GLP-1s for weight loss as a source of growth. When asked by several members of the media and financial analysts about market dynamics and release reports for GLP-1s approved for type 2, Novo Nordisk executives avoided a formal link between the two. They acknowledged the shortcomings and increased usage, but mostly called it a simpler “requirement”.
Responding to a question about media reports of off-label use of type 2 GLP-1s, Jorgensen noted that Novo Nordisk is very clear about why Ozempic and Wegovy are approved and used.
“We have a strong focus on creating two distinct segments with different products and different commercial tactics,” he said.