After strong quarter, Novo Nordisk urges more competitive US obesity market

Multinational pharma company Novo Nordisk (NOVOb.CO) on Wednesday urged greater competition to unleash the potential of the U.S. obesity drugs market, while reporting an 18% third quarter increase in profit.

Novo had a breakthrough with its Wegovy drug that helps to achieve weight loss of 17% on average over almost two years.

“The obesity market is now opening up,” Novo’s chief executive Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen told journalists on Wednesday.

But he said more competition would make more doctors recognise obesity as a disease that can be treated with drugs.

“We would welcome more competitors to actually help establish that market,” Jorgensen said.

Novo was the first to introduce on the obesity market GLP-1, a class of drugs, including Wegovy, that imitate an intestinal hormone to stimulate insulin production and lower appetite.

Three pharmacy benefit managers, which serve as intermediaries between drug manufacturers, health insurance plans and pharmacies, have included Wegovy in their reimbursement plans this year, making up roughly 60% of the commercial market, Novo said.

Strong demand after Wegovy’s release in June on the U.S. market, with nearly three out of four U.S. adults either overweight or obese, meant patients experienced delays in getting the drug because of production bottlenecks.

The bottlenecks persist, but Novo is gradually ramping up supply, and expects to be able to meet demand in early 2022.

After last week raising its forecast for sales and operating profit for the full year, Novo on Wednesday reported a net profit of 12.1 billion Danish crowns ($1.88 billion) in the third quarter, an 18% increase compared with a year ago.

It also said it would expand its share buy-back programme by 2 billion Danish crowns ($311.40 million) to 20 billion crowns.

“The increase in revenue of 8% and 13% in constant exchange rates brings to mind that Novo Nordisk is ‘genuinely back’ on the growth track,” Nordnet analyst Per Hansen said in a note.

Shares in Novo traded up 1.7% at 0945 GMT.

($1 = 6.4217 Danish crowns)