Sales of diabetes and weight loss drugs from pharmaceutical companies Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly are soaring, with even further growth predicted in the coming years. According to analysts, the only reason that can hold back sales is the limited supply, due to the capacity that production has.
Weight-loss drugs have also sent shares of the companies that make them soaring in recent months, and now the numbers show that this extreme investor optimism is probably justified.
According to Reuters, sales of Lilly’s diabetes drug Mounjaro, which is expected to be approved soon for anti-obesity use in the US, reached $1.41 billion in the third quarter, up more than 650% from a year ago and well above analysts’ expectations.
At the same time, Novo Nordisk’s weight-loss drug Wegovy reached 9.6 billion kroner ($1.37 billion), up 734% from a year ago – beating analysts’ forecasts. Revenue at both companies rose nearly 40% in the quarter.
Novo Nordisk’s sales rose in the third quarter and double-digit growth is expected to continue in 2024, driven by rising demand for anti-obesity and diabetes drugs Ozempic and Wegovy.
Novo and Lilly are struggling to keep up with growing demand. Mounjaro and Wegovy have been in short supply in the US for the past year, and Novo said it would continue to limit some doses for its drug until next year.
Lilly Chief Financial Officer Anat Ashkenazi said in an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday that the supply situation for Mounjaro will continue to be a problem for “quite a while.” And that’s before it even received FDA approval as a weight loss treatment.
As money for COVID treatments and vaccines has dried up, investor attention and enthusiasm has shifted to anti-obesity drugs. Shares of Lilly and Novo are up more than 50% each this year. Competitors are also trying to enter the market: Pfizer and Amgen, for example, are both developing their own weight loss treatments.
And this may just be the beginning. Research is also beginning to show potential benefits of these drugs for heart and kidney disease. Meanwhile, Lilly is testing whether a higher dose of Mounjaro can help you lose even more pounds. Both drug companies are also testing their treatments in combination with others to see if they work better and reduce unwanted side effects.
So far, however, the weight-loss craze appears to be mostly a US phenomenon: 90% of Lilly’s $1.4 billion Mounjaro sales came from the US. About 95% of Novo’s Wegovy sales are also in the US.
Dangerous fake injections
At the same time, incidents of falsification of the above preparations are increasing, with several cases of falsification being recorded on European soil.
Insulin instead of the drug semaglutide were found to contain fake weight-loss injections seized in Belgium, days after Austrian authorities announced that several people had been hospitalized after using similar preparations.
Belgium’s Federal Agency for Medicines and Products told Reuters that since the beginning of the year it has seized nine packages on suspicion of being counterfeit.
Two of these packages contained active substances that did not come from Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of the semagutide injections. Laboratory analysis showed that one package contained syringes containing insulin, which is used to treat type 1 diabetes but can cause hypoglycaemia, convulsions and death when administered incorrectly.
In Austria, health safety authority BASQ reported that several people who used fake injections developed insulin-like symptoms.
The Hellenic Medicines Organization also issued a warning about counterfeit semaglutide preparations.
A similar warning was issued last week by Britain, where a “small number” of hospital admissions were recorded.