- Novo Nordisk almost doubled its estimates for sales and profit growth this year, citing high demand for a drug sold in different forms to treat obesity and diabetes.
- The Danish drugmaker said Thursday it now expects sales growth of 24% to 30% this year, compared with a previous guidance of 13% to 19%. Operating profit growth should range between 28% and 34%, up from an earlier estimate of 13% to 19%, Novo said.
- The revisions follow a 25% jump in sales and a 28% increase in operating profit in the first quarter. Novo now expects higher full-year sales for its obesity drug Wegovy and diabetes medicine Ozempic. Both products have the same base drug — known under the generic name semaglutide — but come in different dosages and are intended for different patients.
Novo is benefiting from higher demand for both Wegovy and Ozempic for their intended uses and off-label use of Ozempic for weight loss as well. The latter practice has become so commonplace that Jimmy Kimmel cracked a joke about it while hosting the Oscars last month.
Demand for Ozempic for weight loss surged in part because of a shortage of Wegovy after Novo won approval for it in June 2021. Manufacturing issues that continued through 2022 crimped supply of the injections, and the company couldn’t keep up with demand. On Thursday, Novo said it’s now lined up a second contract manufacturer for Wegovy.
Amid Novo’s manufacturing struggles, drugmaker Lilly jumped into the diabetes market and found “unprecedented” demand for its rival treatment Mounjaro. As with Ozempic, researchers in the diabetes trials observed that Mounjaro also had a marked effect on weight loss, and Lilly is currently testing the drug specifically for obesity. Results from a major trial are due this month.
With the new treatments known as GLP-1 agonists promising more effective weight loss than ever before, Jefferies analysts estimate the obesity market could top $100 billion in less than a decade. Major pharmaceutical companies including Amgen and Pfizer are working on their own contenders, as are smaller biotechnology companies including Viking Therapeutics and Structure Therapeutics.
For its part, Novo projected last year that sales of its weight loss drugs would triple by 2025.