On Monday, Novo Nordisk launched Wegovy, a weight-loss injection, in the UK. The Danish drugmaker aims to expand in the region despite struggling to keep up with growing demand.
Wegovy will be available in the UK in a “controlled and limited launch”, the Danish pharmaceutical company said.
Growing demand for the drug and Novo’s highly effective diabetes treatment Ozempic has pushed the company’s share price and profits to record highs. On Friday, LVMH overtook it as Europe’s most publicly traded company, ending the French luxury goods group’s two-and-a-half-year reign at the top.
Wegovy, which has been shown to help patients lose about 15% of their body weight when used in combination with exercise and lifestyle changes, has been on sale in the US, Norway, Denmark and Germany since late July.
Novo has been unable to meet demand in the US and has delayed its launch in most of Europe.
The company’s CEO, who has struggled to meet demand despite increased production capacity, told Reuters last month that ‘it will take many years before the company is ready for the entire market’.
“We are closely monitoring demand for Wegovy and working with regulators and suppliers to ensure obesity patients have access to and continue to use the treatment,” the company said in a statement.
In March, the UK’s drug cost-effectiveness watchdog NICE recommended Wegovy for use for adults with at least one weight-related condition and a body mass index of 35, but this was limited to use in National Health Service (NHS) specialized weight management programs.
Novo did not disclose the volume of sales in the UK or the price of Wegovy in either of the two treatment scenarios it mentioned. The treatment is sold in the US at US$1,350 per month.
It was not immediately clear what the impact would be if the drug were available through private healthcare providers.
“It is anticipated that supply will be limited in the near future, so some of the available quantities will be allocated for use within the NHS to enable healthcare professionals to implement NICE guidelines,” the statement said.
In June, the UK Government announced plans to launch a pilot program to investigate how GPs could administer new weight-loss injections such as Wegovy to obese patients, but at the time, Wegovy’s launch date was still uncertain.
Last week, Reuters reported that less than a month after the launch of Wegovy in Germany, Europe’s largest pharmaceutical market, supply had been constrained, underscoring the challenges to Novo’s European ambitions.