- Novo Nordisk’s struggles to make sufficient supplies of its new obesity medicine Wegovy continue to weigh on the drug’s launch, with sales in the third quarter sliding by 2% compared to the previous three months. Executives at the Danish drugmaker indicated the situation should improve by the end of the year, however.
- Wegovy, part of an obesity drug business that generated sales of 8.4 billion Danish kroner, or $1.3 billion, in 2021, has had manufacturing problems that have limited supply. The two highest doses, used for maintenance therapy, are currently available, but the low doses new patients receive aren’t.
- Revenue growth for other Novo medicines used to treat Type 2 diabetes remained strong, despite the emergence of a new competing drug from Eli Lilly. Sales of those drugs increased by 62% year over year, although weekly new patient prescriptions for Lilly’s medicine have nearly equaled those of three Novo drugs.
Metabolic medicine is Novo’s core business, and in that area it has only one major competitor, Lilly. In diabetes, the rivals primarily square off in two areas: insulin and injectable drugs called GLP-1 agonists. On the latter, Novo’s daily medicine Victoza and Lilly’s weekly treatment Trulicity have battled for market share for several years.
Novo has since added more drugs to the mix, launching a weekly called Ozempic in 2017 and then a daily, oral version in 2019. Lilly recently responded by winning approval for a first-of-its-kind drug known as Mounjaro, which U.S. regulators cleared in May and has gotten off to a fast start.
“We have seen unprecedented demand for Mounjaro's type 2 diabetes launch in the U.S., bolstered by strong efficacy and a positive customer experience,” Lilly CFO Anat Ashkenazi said in a conference call with investors on Tuesday.
The quick uptake, however, hasn’t yet weighed on Novo’s GLP-1 drug sales, which reached 22.4 billion kroner, or about $2.9 billion, in the third quarter. That equates to a 16% increase over the previous three months and a 62% jump from the third quarter of 2021.
GLP-1s are also potent weight-loss drugs, something Novo has capitalized on by launching a versions of its diabetes drugs, like Wegovy, specifically meant to treat obesity.
Wegovy’s manufacturing problems and flat sales have given Lilly an opportunity to more easily catch up with Mounjaro, though. The Indiana-based company is currently working on a Food and Drug Administration submission for Mounjaro for weight-loss that could be completed shortly after a Phase 3 study wraps up next April.
Across its entire business, Novo expects revenue growth between 14% to 17% this year and operating profit growth of between 13% to 16% at constant currency exchange rates. Both ranges are upgraded from Novo’s second quarter earnings report, when the company’s outlook was 12% to 16% for sales growth and 11% to 15% for operating profit growth.
Novo shares were trading 7% higher in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday.