17. Novo Nordisk

Novo Nordisk Kalundborg, Denmark site
Novo Nordisk has big plans for its new oral semaglutide launch, dubbed Rybelsus. (Novo Nordisk)

Novo Nordisk
2019 revenue: 
$18.03 billion (122,021 DKK million)
2018 revenue: $16.53 billion (111,831 DKK million)
Headquarters: Bagsværd, Denmark

Novo Nordisk is looking for big things from its new oral GLP-1 diabetes drug Rybelsus, but in 2019, the injectable version Ozempic stole the show. Overall for the year, the drug handily passed the blockbuster threshold, propelling Novo to $18 billion in global sales, a 6% increase.

RELATED: Novo's next-gen GLP-1 Ozempic smashes blockbuster barrier amid ramp-up for Rybelsus rollout

Ozempic reeled in $1.64 billion in global sales last year, a huge leap from $264 million in 2018. Since its February 2018 rollout in the U.S., Ozempic has been growing thanks to its efficacy and weight-lowering benefits, CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said in February. It's now available in 22 countries, and the company is planning launches in new markets. The drug has also scored an FDA approval outlining its cardiovascular benefits.

But even as Ozempic grew last year, sales for Novo's older Victoza slipped 13% at constant exchange rates to $3.23 billion.

Looking forward, the company is getting ready to go into “strike mode” with its Rybelsus launch, Jørgensen said; that'll come once the company secures broader coverage for the med. As of early February, the company had secured access in about 30% of the market, he said. Analysts believe the drug represents a multibillion-dollar opportunity.

The oral version is intended for patients who are earlier in their diabetes progression, the CEO said. Ozempic offers better efficacy for those whose disease has progressed further.

RELATED: Novo preps for Rybelsus 'strike mode' as Ozempic hits blockbuster heights

In all, Jørgensen said Novo is in a “business cycle where we are launching a lot of our products” even as insulin pricing remains a challenge. It’s a similar story for Eli Lilly, which is busy launching new drugs and dealing with a squeeze in insulin.

Meanwhile, Novo is also working to build its obesity care business. Last year, sales for obesity med Saxenda reached $840 million, a 47% leap over 2018.

17. Novo Nordisk