Novo makes Asian Wegovy push with Japan launch in February

By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) -Novo Nordisk will launch the anti-obesity Wegovy drug in Japan on Feb. 22 next year, its first Asian launch of the hugely popular drug, the company said on Thursday, even as it struggles to keep up with demand in existing markets.

The Danish company has picked Japan as its sixth country to launch Wegovy despite obesity being a much smaller problem in the Asian country relative to Western countries.

Only 4.5% of adults in Japan were obese with a BMI of 30 or above, among the lowest on record, according to the Global Obesity Observatory citing NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC) data.

Novo is in the process of convincing some governments to pay for Wegovy for the most overweight.

Most patients in Japan will pay 30% of medical expenses for Wegovy, in line with reimbursement for other drugs, a Novo Nordisk said.

Novo has struggled to keep up with soaring demand for the appetite-suppressing, anti-obesity drug, forcing it to limit the number of countries where it has launched and the number of patients who can start treatment.

The company has so far only launched Wegovy in the United States, Britain, Germany, Norway, and its home market Denmark.

Wegovy is the first-to-market in a new class of highly effective weight-loss drugs. But analysts say that Novo’s supply constraints could allow rival Eli Lilly to get ahead, when it launches its Mounjaro weight-loss drug.

(Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Susan Fenton, Alexandra Hudson)