Novo Nordisk doubles stock of Wegovy starter doses, but supply constraints persist: CEO

Even with a competitor’s drug now on the scene, Novo Nordisk is aiming for another year of dominance in the obesity arena thanks in large part to a resupply of starter doses of the company’s weight loss blockbuster Wegovy.

Still, resources and capacity will continue to weigh on GLP-1 sales growth in the coming months and years, Novo’s executives said on a call with investors Wednesday.

“It’s to be expected for quite some time there will be demand that outgrows what can be produced by us and probably by the competition,” Novo’s CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said on the company’s earnings call, as quoted by the Financial Times. Nevertheless, the chief executive expects “quite strong” growth in 2024 on top of a “larger and larger base.”

The supply issue—which has plagued Novo’s obesity med Wegovy since shortly after the drug’s U.S. launch in 2021—was top of mind for investors on Wednesday’s call.

The current year could be something of a mulligan for the Danish drugmaker, which relaunched Wegovy in earnest in January, Novo’s chief financial officer, Karsten Munk Knudsen, explained on the call. As part of the relaunch, Novo has more than doubled its supply of starter doses, Knudsen explained. From there, Novo plans to “gradually” continue to expand its supply of starter doses as well as all dose strengths, the CFO said.

Reflecting on the production expansion work the company accomplished last year, Knudsen said Novo will be “continuing on that growth trajectory” in 2024. 

As for prior efforts, Novo's 2023 capacity expansion helped the company generate 36% sales growth for the year. Around 5 million new patients were able to access Novo's drugs last year.

“We believe that’s pretty significant scaling, and in round numbers, we’re talking about that magnitude when you look at our scaling into next year," Knudsen said on the company's call. 

But supply will continue to be a deciding factor when it comes to obesity revenues, Knudsen acknowledged. When asked about the entry of Eli Lilly’s rival obesity med Zepbound, the CFO said that it’s “more a question about supply capacity, since we’re not competing for share given the magnitude of the markets.”

For now, Novo should be sitting pretty when it comes to Wegovy stock, according to its CFO.

“We have a sustainable supply chain in place, including the necessary inventories to avoid the stop-and-go pattern that we saw in the past,” he said.

Novo also touched on the topic of patient stay times—a consistent question around Wegovy and the longevity of treatment for a chronic disease like obesity.

“We generally see a better stay time on Wegovy than what we’ve seen on previous anti-obesity treatments like Saxenda,” Camilla Sylvest, Novo’s executive vice president of commercial strategy and corporate affairs, said. “So, we basically see fewer patients dropping out.”

Still, she noted it’s relatively “early days for Wegovy because of the interrupted supply.”

Overall, Novo did gangbusters in 2023, lifting revenues 36% to 232.2 billion Danish kroner (around $34 billion).

This year, Novo expects slightly lower but still impressive levels of growth—somewhere in the range between 18% and 26%—thanks to competition from Lilly’s Zepbound and continued supply chokeholds.