Novo Nordisk May Have Found an Even Better Anti-Obesity Drug

Novo Nordisk has announced a new drug in its pipeline performed much better than Wegovy in helping participants to lose weight. 

Photo of Novo Nordisk flags
Photo via Novo Nordisk Media Library

Sign up for smart news, insights, and analysis on the biggest financial stories of the day.

Turns out Wegovy was just an amuse-bouche

Novo Nordisk, the Denmark-based maker of hit anti-obesity drug Wegovy (and its close diabetes treatment cousin Ozempic) has been trialing a successor to Wegovy called amycretin. On Thursday, it announced that in Phase I trials, the new drug had performed much better than Wegovy in helping participants to lose weight. 

Double Trouble

According to Novo Nordisk, participants in the amycretin trial lost 13.1% of their body weight over 12 weeks. That’s much more rapid than Wegovy, which helps users lose around 6% of their weight over the same period. Wegovy and the craze for weight-loss drugs has already catapulted Novo Nordisk into the stratosphere, making it Europe’s most valuable company. The company said last month it would spend $11 billion to expand its weight-loss drug production capabilities, and its success is so huge that it’s had an observable effect on the Danish economy. News of the new drug’s development excited investors so much that it caused Novo Nordisk’s market cap to jump above Tesla’s.

But more potent drugs in the pipeline pose big questions around both demand and safety. A Bloomberg report published Thursday found that many weight-loss drug users are turning to unqualified TikTok influencers for advice on how to manage side effects:

  • Specialized obesity doctors are not as easy to come by as weight loss drugs. Bloomberg reports that while prescriptions for Ozempic have skyrocketed 5,000% since 2018, the number of certified obesity doctors has only doubled.
  • Moreover, some telehealth companies touting weight-loss drugs as part of their services don’t offer any kind of expert aftercare, Bloomberg reported.

Arms Race: It’s not just Novo Nordisk smashing the accelerator. Eli Lilly, which makes the anti-obesity drug Zepbound (closely related to its diabetes medication Mounjaro), is feverishly outsourcing production to keep pace with its Danish rival, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday. For both companies, however, keeping up with demand will be nigh impossible for at least the next few years until they beef up their physical infrastructure. “It’s not like Lilly and Novo will never be able to fulfill demand,” Jim Miller, a consultant to drug-making companies, told the FT, “It’s just that it can take three to five years to get a facility standing and running.” With the advent of anti-obesity drugs, no one should ever have to stand or run again.