Novo Nordisk set to launch weight loss drugs in more countries but in constrained fashion, CEO says

It’s been well documented how Novo Nordisk has had difficulty in meeting the soaring demand for its GLP-1 weight loss treatments. But on Friday, CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the Danish company plans to launch in “more and more” countries.

Speaking at Reuters' Newsmaker event last week, Jorgensen didn’t reveal which countries Novo has targeted. He did say that the company would have to “constrain these launches” as it tries to meet demand in the countries where obesity drug Wegovy and Type 2 diabetes treatment Ozempic—which is commonly prescribed off label for weight loss—are already available.

Meanwhile on Monday, Eli Lilly, which also is facing supply problems for its GLP-1 diabetes drugs, reported it will face a shortage of Trulicity in Europe through the end of September, the European Medicines Agency has warned.

Jorgensen’s comments came two days after Reuters revealed that since April, Novo has been using a second contract manufacturer, Thermo Fisher, to produce Wegovy.

As for Novo’s primary contract manufacturer, Catalent, Jorgensen said he was “confident” that the company is solving its manufacturing issues. Last month, FDA inspection documents indicated that Catalent’s factory in Brussels—which produces self-injection pens for Wegovy—had to shut down twice, Reuters reported.

Jorgensen said Novo could have a third contract manufacturer lined up by the end of this year.

“We’re producing a lot and a lot more each and every day,” Jorgensen said, as quoted by Reuters. “So there’s a massive ramp up. All our sites are running 24-7.”

In explaining the difficulty in meeting the demand, Jorgensen added that the world’s obesity population is “perhaps a billion patients.” Novo believes demand will exceed supply for the “foreseeable future,” Jorgensen said.

Earlier this month, Novo reported staggering sales for Wegovy as it hit the blockbuster mark for the quarter, generating 7.5 billion Danish kroner ($1.1 billion). The company's diabetes and obesity care sales climbed 37% to 99 billion Danish kroner for the quarter, with GLP-1 diabetes revenues specifically rising by 50%.

Similarly, Lilly also reported booming sales of its new diabetes drug Mounjaro, which reached $979 million in the second quarter. Since the launch of Mounjaro in May of last year, Lilly has had difficulty meeting soaring demand.