Novo's Wegovy supply rebound on track for later this year as demand stays strong

As a potential Eli Lilly rival looms, Novo Nordisk’s obesity newcomer Wegovy is gearing up for a supply rebound in the back half of the year, executives said Friday. 

Novo obesity earnings

Wegovy posted 1.4 billion Danish kroner (about $198 million) in sales for the first three months of 2022. Combined with 2 billion Danish kroner ($283.5 million) in revenue from Wegovy’s weight loss predecessor Saxenda, Novo’s overall obesity sales climbed a whopping 107% at constant currencies, Camilla Sylvest, Novo’s EVP of commercial strategy and corporate affairs, said on the company’s earnings call.

While Wegovy demand has been massive following the drug’s approval last June, its rollout hasn’t been without its hitches. Late last year, Novo revealed that the drug would run short after a contract manufacturer in charge of syringe filling halted deliveries because of manufacturing issues.

In the interim, Novo paused Wegovy sales and marketing, with the goal to “ensure continuity of care to the patients that have already initiated treatment,” Doug Langa, Novo’s executive vice president for North American Operations, explained on the call.

“To further prevent new patients from initiating treatment, we stopped supply of the first two Wegovy dose strengths—the 0.25 and 0.5 milligram—in March,” Langa added.

Now, the contract manufacturer filling syringes for Wegovy has restarted production, Novo’s North American chief said. With production back on track, Novo expects to make all Wegovy dose strengths available in the U.S. during the second half of 2022.

Manufacturing hiccups aside, Novo execs are pleased with Wegovy’s launch so far. Demand has “exceeded expectations," said Langa, who pointed out that weekly U.S. prescriptions topped 20,000 during the first three months of 2022.

Meanwhile, Wegovy’s market access push continues to make strides. The med now counts the Department of Defense as a reimbursed channel, Langa said. Elsewhere, commercial formulary access is now around 80%, he said.

Novo’s drug has the obesity market largely to itself, but it could soon face pressure from Eli Lilly’s dual GIP/GLP-1 med, tirzepatide, which posted impressive weight loss results on Thursday. In the phase 3 Surmount 1 trial, tirzepatide led to average weight loss from 16% at the low 5 mg dose to 22.5% at the high 15 mg dose, Lilly said Thursday.

“We’re looking forward to reviewing the data with the FDA and discussing the potential for an expedited path forward for this indication,” Lilly’s chief scientific and medical officer, Daniel Skovronsky, M.D., Ph.D., said of the tirzepatide results on a recent call with investors.

Novo Nordisk’s overall sales for the quarter grew 18% at constant exchange rates to 42 billion Danish kroner ($5.9 billion), marking the Danish drugmaker's “strongest quarterly growth for more than two decades,” Karsten Munk Knudsen, Novo’s EVP and chief financial officer, said on the call.

It credited the boost in large part to the momentum behind its GLP-1 triumvirate of Ozempic, Rybelsus and Wegovy, with type 2 diabetes blockbuster Ozempic doing most of the heavy lifting, Novo CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen noted at the top of the company’s earnings call.

Meanwhile, a newly approved 2 mg version of Ozempic should roll out in the coming weeks, the company told investors.

For the remainder of the year, Novo is forecasting sales growth between 10% and 14%, up from a previous estimate of 6% to 10%.