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  5. Blockbuster weight-loss drug Wegovy's sales just doubled — and could heat up even more with a price cut

Blockbuster weight-loss drug Wegovy's sales just doubled and could heat up even more with a price cut

Shubhangi Goel   

Blockbuster weight-loss drug Wegovy's sales just doubled — and could heat up even more with a price cut
  • Novo Nordisk has said it will cut prices of Wegovy amid rising sales and competition.
  • Sales of the blockbuster weight-loss drug more than doubled in the first quarter year on year.

The Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk is set to lower prices of its weight-loss drug Wegovy as it plans to raise sales volumes and navigate tough competition.

Prices for the blockbuster drug fell in the first quarter, and Novo Nordisk's chief financial officer, Karsten Munk Knudsen, said in a Thursday earnings call that the company planned to continue to cut prices in the US because of high volume and competition.

Sales of Wegovy more than doubled in the first quarter year on year to 9.4 billion Danish crowns, or $1.3 billion, according to the company's earnings. Knudsen said that in the US, more than 25,000 new patients were starting the drug weekly, compared with 5,000 at the beginning of the year.

Knudsen and CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said on the earnings call that they were prioritizing accessibility to Wegovy, instead of keeping prices high — despite significant demand at current costs. They didn't specify how much Novo planned to cut from Wegovy's prices.

The Danish pharmaceutical maker also produces Ozempic, a viral diabetes drug that has been used for weight loss. It reported better-than-expected sales of 65 billion Danish crowns, or about $9.4 billion, in the first quarter. The company also raised forecasts for 2024 and said it expected sales to grow between 19% and 27%.

The Wegovy price cuts come as Novo faces competition from its US rival Eli Lilly, which also posted earnings this week and reported a 26% increase in revenue in the first quarter. Eli Lilly said revenue growth was driven by the Ozempic and Wegovy competitors Mounjaro and Zepbound, which are used to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity, respectively.

Novo's pricing for Ozempic and Wegovy has come under recent political scrutiny. Last week, US Sen. Bernie Sanders launched an investigation looking into "the outrageously high prices" Novo charges for both drugs in the US, which he said were much higher than in other countries.

Wegovy and similar drugs for weight loss have become a huge business. The US adult obesity rate was at about 40% from 2017 to 2020, and Goldman Sachs researchers estimated last year that the drugs could be prescribed to 15 million Americans by 2030. The bank's researchers said the anti-obesity-drug market could grow to $100 billion by that time.

The highly coveted drugs are being snagged by celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, and Charles Barkley. They're also gaining popularity with people who are going out of their way to afford them.




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