Novo CEO expects patients to stay on Wegovy longer than older weight loss drugs

(Reuters) – Novo Nordisk’s CEO said on Tuesday he expects patients will stick with the company’s popular obesity drug Wegovy for far longer than those using older treatments.

“We know from all medical interventions, stay time is not like a 100%… but I think we will see a significantly higher stay time than what we have seen so far on obesity treatment,” said Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen at the JPMorgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco.

The Danish drugmaker’s chief executive said the effects patients see after being on Wegovy would be an incentive for them to continue, although it may be “too early to tell.” In a pivotal clinical trial, patients lost an average of 15% of their weight on Wegovy.

Forty percent of patients who filled a prescription for Wegovy in 2021 or 2022 were still taking it a year later, more than three times the rate of adherence with older medicines, according to an analysis of medical records and insurance claims data published last month.

Novo and U.S. drugmaker Eli Lilly currently dominate the market for new weight loss drugs that analysts have forecast could be worth $100 billion by the end of the decade. Several companies are scrambling to get in on that expected windfall.

Jorgensen said on Tuesday that Novo was currently catering to 14 million diabetes and obesity patients globally, and that it “welcomes competition” in the market for obesity treatments.

Wegovy, which has the same active ingredient as the company’s type 2 diabetes drug Ozempic, was approved for obesity in June 2021 and has proved to be wildly popular.

A rival drug from Lilly, Zepbound, was approved in November. Both injectable drugs belong to a class of medicines called GLP-1 agonists originally developed for diabetes. In addition to controlling blood sugar, they suppress appetite and promote a feeling of fullness.

Jorgensen said there was space in the obesity market for both injectable and oral treatments.

The company’s once-daily weight-loss pill has showed similar efficacy and safety to Wegovy in a late-stage trial.

(Reporting by Bhanvi Satija and Khushi Mandowara in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Berkrot)