Novo Nordisk’s new weight-loss drug getting a boost from pandemic – CEO

COPENHAGEN, Aug 5 (Reuters) – The pandemic is pushing more people to seek treatment for obesity, Novo Nordisk’s top boss said on Thursday, referring to strong sales of the newly launched drug, Wegovy, which helped the drugmaker raise its earnings forecast for the full year.

Sales of prescriptions drugs to treat obesity have failed to take off in the past due to modest weight-loss effects. But newer drugs are proving to be more effective, prompting people with obesity to opt for treatments.

“I think the (COVID-19) pandemic has underlined the importance of treating obesity more than ever,” Chief Executive Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen told reporters on Thursday.

“There is a general sentiment building that it is a disease and it is a disease that takes medical intervention.”

Although Wegovy was launched just six weeks back, prescriptions for the treatment have already reached a similar level to Saxenda, Novo’s other obesity drug that was launched in 2015, the company said.

Wegovy belongs to a range of new diabetes and obesity drugs known as GLP-1 analogues, which by imitating a gut hormone that stimulates insulin production, lower appetite and increase feelings of fullness in patients.

“Of the 650 million living with obesity today only 2% are treated with prescription medicine so obviously it’s a huge opportunity,” Jorgensen said.

Flags are seen outside Novo Nordisk headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark, February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen/File Photo

He however, cautioned that it was still too early to make predictions on future growth.

The Danish drugmaker on Wednesday surprised the market by raising its full-year forecast and posted second-quarter earnings that beat estimates.

Its shares closed up 4.8%, trading at their highest level ever, on Wednesday and continued to tick up on Thursday, rising 3% in early trade.

Other big pharma companies including Novo Nordisk rivals Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca are also looking to tap the market for obesity drugs.

Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Anil D’Silva

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