Wegovy and Ozempic demand in Europe surprises Novo Nordisk CEO

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Photo: George Frey (Reuters)

It turns out weight-loss drugs are not just a US phenomenon.

Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk has been “surprised” by the readiness of Europeans to pay for weight-loss drugs out of pocket, the company’s chief executive says. And now Novo Nordisk aims to invest in increasing supply to meet rising demand.

“It’s perhaps the first time that you see a large population willing to pay out of pocket for medicine,” Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen told The Financial Times in an interview published Sunday.

Sales of the company’s weight-loss drug Wegovy and diabetes treatment Ozempic hit $33.7 billion last year, up 36%. In the US alone, where more than 40% of the adult population is obese, accounted for 45% of those sales.

The company’s products also work: With Wegovy, participants lost an average of 15% of their body weight in a trial lasting more than a year. In Europe and the Middle East, sales almost doubled to $1 billion in 2023 after Wegovy was made available in the UK, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Iceland, and the United Arab Emirates.

In Europe, 80% of sales are paid for out-of-pocket by consumers, with the remainder reimbursed by health insurance or states, according to Novo Nordisk. In the US, more than 90% of sales are completely or partially covered by health insurance, the company said.

High demand has also led to supply problems. To convince healthcare providers to increase prescriptions, the drugmaker is in talks with them about new pricing deals that would spread the costs of Wegovy across many years.

The soaring demand for blockbuster weight loss drugs could result in Novo Nordisk and Eli Lily becoming the first healthcare companies to reach a market capitalization of over $1 trillion.

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