U.S. supply of Novo Nordisk’s weight loss drug Wegovy will be “reduced temporarily,” the company said Thursday, revealing the latest setback to a launch that’s been slowed by manufacturing issues over the last year and a half.
Availability of the lower three of Wegovy’s five doses, used as weekly starter shots to gradually increase patients’ tolerance to the drug, will be limited to ensure people who now get maintenance treatment can maintain “continuity of care,” the company said. Novo indicated the problem will be eased once it gets a new contract manufacturer up and running.
“We continue to scale supply capacity and the second [manufacturer] of Wegovy is now producing to the market, providing additional capacity and risk mitigation,” said Douglas Langa, Novo’s executive vice president and head of North American operations, in an earnings conference call Thursday.
Despite the production hurdles, Wegovy sales continued to grow. Sales rose to 4.6 billion Danish kroner, or about $676 million, in the first quarter, up from 2.4 billion kroner the previous quarter and 1.4 billion over the first three months of 2022.
Wegovy, along with other, similar drugs used to treat obesity and diabetes, were the only products in Novo’s metabolic disease portfolio to post year-over-year sales growth. Revenue from the company’s insulin products has sunk due to pricing pressure in the U.S. and has declined internationally as well. (Sales of some drugs used to prevent bleeding in hemophilia patients also increased.)
Overall, Novo reported sales of 53.4 billion kroner in the first three months of the year, up from 48.1 billion last quarter and 42 billion kroner in the first quarter of 2022.
Still, Novo is facing an increased urgency to resolve Wegovy’s supply issues due to the coming competition from Eli Lilly. Lilly’s rival drug, Mounjaro, succeeded in the second of two Phase 3 trials in obesity last week. Executives said they plan on using a priority review voucher to speed up its review, meaning the drug could be approved in the U.S. by the end of 2023.
Novo’s Copenhagen-traded shares fell 3%, while it’s U.S.-listed shares were off 4% in morning trading.