Soaring demand for weight loss drug prompts Novo to hire private contractor
Obesity market could balloon to more than $100bn by the end of the decade
London — Novo Nordisk has hired US private contract manufacturer PCI Pharma Services to handle assembly and packaging of Wegovy, a source familiar with the matter said, as it races to boost output of the weight-loss drug to meet demand.
Philadelphia-based PCI, which has 15 facilities in North America, Europe and Australia, is putting together the self-injection pens used to administer Wegovy, said the source, who declined to be named because the information is confidential.
The source did not say when Novo signed up PCI. At its most recent investor day, in March 2022, the Danish drugmaker said in a presentation that it was doing the assembly and packaging work for Wegovy in-house.
Assembling the pens after a glass cartridge is filled with the drug elsewhere is the final stage of manufacturing before Wegovy is shipped. Novo declined to comment on PCI’s work but said Wegovy is currently assembled and packed by Novo and external partners.
Wegovy is the first-to-market in a new class of highly effective weight-loss drugs and its booming sales have led some analysts to predict the obesity market could be worth more than $100bn by the end of this decade.
Record profits from Wegovy and its type 2 diabetes drug Ozempic, which contains the same active ingredient, helped Novo become Europe’s most valuable listed company earlier in September with a market capitalisation of about $420bn.
Used alongside changes to diet and exercise, Wegovy leads to an average weight loss of around 15%, studies show. But Novo has been unable to keep pace with demand for the drug in the five markets — the US and four European countries — where it is available.
The company is spending billions of dollars to ramp up production by building new factories and hiring more contract manufacturers to fill the pens.
Wegovy is part of a class of drugs known as GLP-1s used to treat diabetes and obesity. In the US, where it was launched in June 2021, it is the first and so far only one of a group of newer and more effective GLP-1 drugs approved specifically for weight loss.
Eli Lilly’s GLP-1 drug Mounjaro was launched in the US in 2022 for type 2 diabetes and is expected to be approved there for weight loss by year end, while rival companies are developing their own GLP-1 drugs.
PCI has six US facilities — in Philadelphia, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin — two in Canada, six in Europe and one in Australia.
The Novo contract is part of PCI’s US work on GLP-1 drugs, which includes assembling and packaging of vials, prefilled syringes, auto-injectors and pen cartridges which are used for GLP-1s, the source said.
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