Novo Nordisk's weight loss drug Wegovy to run short amid contract manufacturer hiccup

Demand for Novo Nordisk’s obesity medicine Wegovy is high, but a manufacturing hitch with one of the Danish company’s partners has put near-term supply in jeopardy.

Novo Nordisk on Friday said that a contract manufacturer in charge of syringe filling for Wegovy pens in the U.S. had temporarily halted deliveries following issues with good manufacturing practices. 

Novo Nordisk did not clarify the nature of the manufacturing issues, nor did it identify the contract manufacturer by name. The company did not immediately respond to Fierce Pharma’s request for comment.

Because of the manufacturing hiccup, Novo Nordisk doesn’t expect to be able to meet demand for the drug in the U.S. during the first half of 2022. It added that “few new patients are expected to be able to initiate treatment.”

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In the meantime, the company is prioritizing supply for patients who’ve already started on Wegovy. The company thinks it could again meet demand in the U.S. by the second half of next year.

Despite the glitch, the supply challenges aren’t expected to disrupt Novo’s financial forecast for 2021. The company said it will provide a financial outlook for 2022 alongside full-year 2021 results on Feb. 2, 2022.

Manufacturing hiccup aside, Novo Nordisk’s star has been rising on the strength of diabetes drug Rybelsus and weight loss med Wegovy. To help meet demand, the company last week said it would splash out $2.58 billion to expand production capacity, teeing up three new factories as well as an expansion at its site in Kalundborg, Denmark.

Most of the cash will be used to increase production of active pharmaceutical ingredients, Novo Nordisk said. A smaller portion of the investment has been earmarked for assembly and packaging of its oral and injectable products.

Novo expects the upgrade to wrap up in 2027.

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Together with Novo’s predecessor weight loss drug Saxenda, Wegovy brought in 5.94 billion Danish krone (about $901 million) in sales for the first nine months of the year, the company reported (PDF) last month.

After its launch in June 2021, Wegovy reached the 10,000 prescription-per-week mark in five weeks, Novo's executive vice president of North America operations, Doug Langa, told Fierce Pharma in a recent interview. It took Saxenda five years to hit that figure.