Novo envisions bonanza from U.S. weight-loss market

Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk sees potential to fatten the company's revenue by selling a diabetes drug to help the morbidly obese thin down.

The company ($NVO) is banking that a higher-dose version of its type 2 diabetes drug Victoza (liraglutide) might generate multiple billions of dollars as it helps patients achieve a healthier body weight, Reuters reports. And the FDA's willingness to review, and approve, drugs for weight loss indicates a change of attitude in its efforts against the health problems related to obesity.

"More physicians are now knowledgeable that pharmacotherapy can make a difference and the political establishment in the U.S. now knows that behavior change alone is not enough," Novo's Chief Science Officer, Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, told Reuters.

Weight loss is a side benefit of its ability to control insulin production in people with Type 2 diabetes. The company is currently testing liraglutide as one part of a weight-loss program at a higher dose than diabetes patients receive. The question is whether it will produce unacceptable side effects at that level. There are an estimated 100 million people in the U.S. with obesity and weight-related health issues, and if Novo could sell liraglutide to just 1% of those, it could be a $6 billion annual market, Thomsen tells Reuters.

Some healthcare professionals have doubts about whether drugs are the best way to treat obesity, but the FDA for the first time in many years a pair of treatments this year, Belviq from Arena Pharmaceuticals ($ARNA) and  Qsymia, a weight-loss drug from Vivus ($VVUS). And the reults? In the case of Qsymia, sales have been languid. It has been trying a number of ways to charge sales, which had been running about 1,200 scripts a week before it launched a two-week free trial for consumers. 

- read the Reuters story

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