JPM24: In booming obesity field, Novo Nordisk is 'just getting going,' CEO says

Despite persistent supply hitches since Wegovy’s launch in 2021, Novo Nordisk has quickly garnered blockbuster sales in the newly untapped obesity market. And to hear Novo’s CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen tell it, the company is "just getting going" in the field.

In 2024, Novo Nordisk plans to entrench itself even deeper into the burgeoning obesity market, Jørgensen said Tuesday at the 42nd annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. To get there, Novo will rely on expanded manufacturing capacity, new cardiovascular outcomes data and a surprise boost from Eli Lilly’s rival weight-loss drug Zepbound, which snagged its own obesity nod in November.

Novo’s Wegovy proved immensely popular out the gate. Initially, the company struggled to contend with the unprecedented spike in demand for its new semaglutide-based medicine. But after a sustained manufacturing expansion campaign over the past two years, Jørgensen figures Novo is in a comfortable position moving into 2024.

In 2023, Novo grew sales of GLP-1 diabetes med Ozempic by 50% and Wegovy by 500%, with Ozempic becoming the best-selling diabetes product in the world, according to the CEO.

“So, the fact that we grew by 50% talks a bit to the magnitude of the capacity expansions we are doing,” Jørgensen said.

The CEO said he's “very comfortable” looking at 2024, especially for Wegovy in the U.S., where Novo expects to add “significant additional volumes” over the coming year.

Novo’s manufacturing boost didn’t happen overnight, Jørgensen explained.

“This is a continued journey of building capacity for the years to come,” he said.

Working to get ahead of demand crunches in other countries, Novo performed controlled launches in the United Kingdom and Germany last year in a bid to set the volume it brought to the market, Jørgensen pointed out.

Meanwhile, Novo has been building up additional clinical evidence—through trials like the cardiovascular outcomes study SELECT—in an effort to tell “the whole story about the value of treating obesity,” Jørgensen said.

While there's been plenty of mainstream hype around the company's GLP-1 therapies, Jørgensen stressed that “what moves [prescriptions] is physicians understanding the science and the products.”

“I see a very steady, robust demand that I think is moving a bit out of the hype,” he added.

Novo’s Wegovy kicked off the current weight-loss craze with its approval in 2021. These days, however, the semaglutide medication is duking it out with Eli Lilly’s rival obesity drug, Zepbound. Still, Jørgensen isn’t breaking a sweat.

“When you have efficacious products and you launch new efficacious products, it actually fuels the growth of the category,” he explained, adding that Novo is currently only “scratching the surface of the obesity market.”