“We are now enabling more U.S. patients to initiate treatment by more than doubling the amount of lower-dose strengths,” Doug Langa, executive vice president of Novo’s North America operations, said on a call with analysts. The company had restricted starting doses for new patients last May to ensure there would be enough supply for continuing patients.
Novo executives said Wednesday they plan to gradually increase supply throughout 2024, but their forecast allows for periodic supply constraints. As of Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration listed semaglutide — the main ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy — on its shortage list.
Novo and rival Eli Lilly have established themselves as the leaders in what some Wall Street analysts predict will be the best-selling class of drugs of all time — appetite suppressing compounds known as GLP-1 drugs, which mimic a naturally occurring hormone that sends a signal of fullness to the brain. The drugs are injected once weekly, but the race is on to develop pill versions.
Demand for the drugs has been so hot that Novo has struggled to churn out enough, leading the FDA to declare a shortage of semaglutide in March 2022. That designation has opened the door for specialized pharmacies to make copies of the FDA-approved drug, propping up an industry of clinics and telehealth firms that sell the pharmacy-made versions at a discount.
Novo turned an annual profit of 83.7 billion in Danish kroner in 2023, 51 percent higher than the previous year and equivalent to about $12 billion at current exchange rates. That marks the company’s largest annual net profit going back to 1989, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Ozempic alone accounted for 41 percent of Novo’s total sales in 2023, equivalent to more nearly $14 billion, with two-thirds of the drug’s sales coming from the United States. Wegovy brought in sales of about $4.5 billion.
“We are very pleased with the strong performance in 2023 reflecting that more than 40 million people are now benefiting from our innovative diabetes and obesity treatments,” Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, Novo’s chief executive, said in a statement.