Novo Nordisk limits distribution of low doses of Wegovy in U.S.


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Novo Nordisk is holding back low doses of Wegovy, its recently approved obesity medication, in the U.S. to conserve supplies for patients already using the drug, the company said Thursday.

The Danish drugmaker is supplying “limited quantities” of 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg and 1 mg dose strengths to wholesalers for distribution to retail pharmacies, according to the statement. The holdback is a move to ensure existing patients have “continuity of care” amid the booming demand, a company spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Wegovy as a weight-management treatment in 2021. Like Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro, Wegovy belongs to a class of drugs known as GLP-1 agonists that have taken the weight-loss industry by storm

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Endorsements by celebrities on social media touting the drugs’ powerful weight-loss effects have fueled nationwide shortages for people who rely on the life-saving medications for other health issues, such as Type 2 diabetes.

“Today we are serving hundreds of thousands of U.S. patients with Wegovy,” the company said in the announcement. “However, trends indicate that demand for Wegovy in the U.S. will exceed our current supply capacity.”

Working on expanding supply

The Danish drugmaker is working to gradually expand its supply capacity by pausing promotions for the drug and closely managing shipments to wholesalers in the U.S., the company said. 

Novo Nordisk did not immediately reply to CBS MoneyWatch’s request for comment. 

Adult obesity rates in the U.S. have skyrocketed over the past two decades. The U.S. adult obesity rate jumped from 30.5% in 1999 to 41.9% in 2020, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) shows. In addition, the prevalence of severe obesity nearly doubled to 9.2% over the same time period.  

The prevalence of obesity in the states makes the U.S. an ideal market for Novo Nordisk’s weight loss drugs — and it shows in the company’s earnings. Sales for its North America operations increased 47%, according to the company’s financial report for the first quarter of 2023.

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