Weight loss drugs are still hard to find — but Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly are trying to change that

By omshreeinfotech Feb 10, 2024
Weight loss drugs are still hard to find — but Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly are trying to change that

Injection pens of Novo Nordisk’s weight-loss drug Wegovy are proven on this picture illustration in Oslo, Norway, Nov. 21, 2023.

Victoria Klesty | Reuters

The insatiable demand for weight loss drugs is trouncing supply, leaving many sufferers struggling to find the injectable treatments

The dominant weight loss drugmakers, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly, have stated provide woes possible will not go away anytime quickly, as the recognition of these medicines continues to soar. But each corporations are exhibiting encouraging progress of their efforts to improve provide. 

“I believe it is going to take just a few years for it to resolve itself,” Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Louise Chen advised CNBC of the provision points. “But I believe each corporations will slowly begin to meet the demand out there.” 

Patients have flocked to weight loss drugs similar to Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s Zepbound because the therapies assist them shed important kilos over time, regardless of the drugs’ hefty price tags, combined insurance coverage and handful of unpleasant side effects.

Goldman Sachs analysts anticipate 15 million U.S. adults to be on weight problems medicines by 2030. Some Wall Street analysts challenge that the burden loss drug market might be worth $100 billion by the tip of the last decade.

As demand spikes, many of the drugs have slipped into intermittent shortages. But there may be restricted information accessible on how important shortages are or how a lot provide corporations have.

“I hear on a regular basis about sufferers going to pharmacies that simply haven’t got it in inventory for them, particularly for the reason that summer time,” stated Dr. Jeff Friedman, the director of bariatric surgical procedure on the University of Florida, who additionally prescribes weight problems medicines.

But each Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly gave updates on positive supply developments to traders over the past week. They rounded out 2023 with a handful of latest investments in increasing manufacturing capability for his or her weight loss and diabetes drugs.

Those efforts purpose to reassure anxious traders that they will capitalize on the success of the therapies and to reassure sufferers that they will entry the therapies. Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly look to keep their edge out there as different corporations similar to Amgen, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Roche and smaller weight problems drugmakers race to be a part of the area. 

Drugmakers kick off 2024 with provide progress 

Novo Nordisk final week stated it had more than doubled its provide of lower-dose variations of its weight loss injection Wegovy in January in contrast with earlier months, which is able to permit extra folks to begin taking the drug. Shortages have pressured Novo Nordisk to prohibit the provision of these decrease “starter” doses within the U.S. since May. 

There is still “restricted availability” of 0.25, 0.5, 1 and 1.7-milligram doses of Wegovy, in accordance to a Monday replace on the Food and Drug Administration’s drug scarcity database. Patients sometimes begin on the 0.25-milligram dose and improve the scale over time to mitigate uncomfortable side effects similar to nausea. 

Novo Nordisk plans to progressively improve Wegovy provide the remainder of the yr, executives stated on the corporate’s fourth-quarter earnings name final week.

An Eli Lilly and Company pharmaceutical manufacturing plant is pictured in Branchburg, New Jersey, March 5, 2021.

Mike Segar | Reuters

Certain doses of Eli Lilly’s diabetes drug Mounjaro, which makes use of the identical energetic ingredient as Zepbound, even have restricted availability, in accordance to the FDA. Both therapies are incretin drugs, which mimic intestine hormones to suppress urge for food and regulate blood sugar.

Still, Eli Lilly achieved its aim of doubling manufacturing capability for such incretin drugs by the tip of 2023, executives stated throughout the firm’s fourth-quarter earnings name Tuesday. They stated the corporate will increase manufacturing with “equal urgency” this yr, with essentially the most important manufacturing will increase occurring within the second half of the yr. 

By that level within the yr, the corporate expects its manufacturing of sellable doses of incretin drugs to be not less than 1.5 occasions greater than it was within the second half of 2023, executives stated.

Catalent deal may enhance Wegovy provide

Novo Nordisk and its mum or dad firm, Novo Holdings, unveiled multibillion-dollar offers that may improve Wegovy provide — simply not but.

Novo Holdings on Monday stated it’s going to purchase drug producer Catalent in a $16.5 billion deal. Catalent is the principle provider of fill-finish work, which entails filling and packaging syringes and injection pens, for Wegovy. 

Novo Nordisk will then purchase three of Catalent’s manufacturing websites from Novo Holdings for $11 billion. Novo Nordisk stated that buy will progressively improve the corporate’s manufacturing capability beginning in 2026. 

A basic view of the drug product manufacturing laboratory in biologics and sterile injectables, Catalent, in Brussels, Belgium June 27, 2023. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Yves Herman | Reuters

In a notice Tuesday, TD Cowen analyst Michael Nedelcovych wrote the Catalent offers will possible “enhance manufacturing quicker” than constructing fully new crops or including extra manufacturing traces to current websites, strikes Novo Nordisk is still pursuing. Those efforts are extra “costly and time consuming” than the acquisition, he famous.

Eli Lilly CFO Anat Ashkenazi advised traders throughout an earnings name Tuesday that the corporate has concerns about Novo Holdings’ acquisition, particularly since Eli Lilly contracts Catalent to manufacture a few of its medicines. 

But Eli Lilly has stated it does not have significant manufacturing coming from Catalent, so the acquisition could have little impact on its enterprise, Cantor Fitzgerald’s Chen stated.

New crops may improve long-term provide 

Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly have each poured billions into constructing new manufacturing websites that may enhance provide of their weight loss and diabetes drugs within the coming years. 

On Tuesday, Eli Lilly stated a brand new plant in Concord, North Carolina, will begin manufacturing of incretin drugs as early as the tip of the yr, with merchandise accessible to ship in 2025. 

In a notice Sunday, Morgan Stanley analysts stated they anticipate that facility and one in North Carolina’s Triangle Park, which began manufacturing final yr, to assist the corporate considerably improve its capability for supplying autoinjector types of Mounjaro, Zepbound and Eli Lilly’s different diabetes drug Trulicity. Autoinjectors are the normal supply units of these medicines.

The firm additionally will construct a handful of different services over the following few years. Eli Lilly in November stated it will spend $2.5 billion to open a producing website for injectable merchandise in Germany, with development starting this yr.

The drugmaker has additionally invested greater than $3 billion to build two new manufacturing services in its house state of Indiana. 

Meanwhile, Novo Nordisk in November stated it will make investments $6 billion to increase its manufacturing websites in Denmark, noting it’s going to end development from the tip of 2025 by means of 2029. The firm additionally stated it will spend around $2.3 billion to construct out one other manufacturing facility in France. 

Other types of weight loss drugs may assist 

Alternative types of weight loss drugs may additionally assist alleviate provide constraints sooner or later.

Eli Lilly has restricted capability to make autoinjectors for Mounjaro and Zepbound. So, the corporate plans to launch Mounjaro in a supply system referred to as KwikPen in sure international locations outdoors of the U.S. The technique requires extra regulatory approvals. The UK recently approved Mounjaro in KwikPen kind. 

The drugmaker has stated launching KwikPen types of its incretin drugs will increase provide. That’s as a result of Eli Lilly for years has used that system for insulin, so the corporate can faucet into current manufacturing sources to make extra of different incretin drugs. 

KwikPen is a single four-dose pen that covers a month’s remedy. Patients utilizing autoinjectors undergo 4 totally different pens per thirty days.

Wells Fargo analyst Mohit Bansal wrote in a notice final month that if Eli Lilly launches its diabetes and weight loss drugs in KwikPen kind within the U.S., it might be a “supply of provide upside” out there for 2025.

But each Eli Lilly and analysts have stated that oral types of weight loss and diabetes drugs, which are sometimes simpler and cheaper to manufacture, can be key to assembly demand.

Eli Lilly is creating an oral drug referred to as orforglipron, which can have an edge over experimental weight loss tablets from Novo Nordisk and Pfizer

Eli Lilly’s tablet helped chubby or overweight sufferers lose up to 14.7% of their physique weight after 36 weeks in a midstage trial. The consequence appeared to be in keeping with the burden discount attributable to Novo Nordisk’s oral drug, but over a shorter trial interval. 

Still, Eli Lilly could launch late-stage trial information on the tablet in 2025, so it will not be coming into the market any time quickly. 

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