The maker of blockbuster weight-loss drug semaglutide has reported a steep rise in sales and profits as health systems around the world rush to use it to tackle obesity.
Sales of the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk’s diabetes and obesity drugs rose from 113bn Danish kroner (£13.2bn) in the nine months to the end of September 2022 to 154bn kroner for the same period in 2023.
However, the company also warned that it is struggling to keep up with demand, in its financial results published on Thursday.
Semaglutide’s effects on obesity, with many patients experiencing more significant weight loss than with rival products, have made it into a rare medicine that has gained household recognition, with people ranging from billionaire Elon Musk to former prime minister Boris Johnson among those who have said they have taken the drug, which is administered via injections.
The drug, marketed as Wegovy for obesity and Ozempic for diabetes, has also transformed the prospects of Novo Nordisk. Its New York-listed shares gained 2.9% in pre-market trading on Thursday morning, rising above the $100 mark, after publishing its financial results.
The company’s market value before the results was $334bn, nearly double its value at the start of 2022, and quadruple its value at the start of 2019. That made it Europe’s most valuable company.
The company has launched sales in the US, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Iceland and the UK. In September, the UK’s NHS launched prescriptions of semaglutide via specialist weight management services alongside a reduced calorie diet and exercise.
Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, Novo Nordisk’s chief executive, said: “We are very satisfied with the sales growth in the first nine months of 2023, which is reflecting that more people than ever are benefiting from our innovative diabetes and obesity treatments.”
Novo is racing to keep up with demand, and said it would restrict supplies of Wegovy in the US. It said: “While supply capacity for Wegovy is gradually being expanded, the supply of the lower-dose strengths in the US will remain restricted to safeguard continuity of care.”
The company said there would be “expected continued periodic supply constraints” despite the efforts to build more factories to make the drug. Novo is trying to keep ahead of rival Eli Lilly, whose Mounjaro diabetes product is also expected to gain approval as a weight-loss drug.