Novo Nordisk announces $6B investment in Ozempic, Wegovy amid shortages


(NEW YORK) — An executive for Novo Nordisk, the maker of popular drugs used for weight loss including Ozempic and Wegovy, says the company is investing over $6 billion dollars to help meet the increased demand for the drugs amid ongoing shortages and high prices.

Negelle Morris, senior vice president and head of U.S. cardiometabolic sales at Novo Nordisk Inc., warned though that even with the increased investment, there will still likely be a delay in getting the drugs to the market.

“It’s not like a light switch,” Morris told ABC News’ Erielle Reshef in an exclusive interview that aired Thursday on “Good Morning America.” “The strategy is to be very mindful and thoughtful about the amount of the lower doses that we’re putting into the market, and I think that over time, the investments that we’re making in manufacturing capabilities will ensure that over time we’re able to meet that demand.”

The three smallest doses for Wegovy, ranging from 0.25 milligram to 1 milligram, currently have “limited availability,” according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Novo Nordisk told ABC News that despite the shortages for Wegovy, the company has enough product on the market to start 25,000 patients on Wegovy per week — a fourfold increase since late last year.

In addition, Novo Nordisk has agreed to acquire three production facilities from pharma and biotech company Catalent for $11 billion, and the company expects to complete the acquisition by the end of the year.

Ozempic is currently available in all dosages, according to the FDA, but has experienced shortages over the past two years as demand for drugs used for weight loss has continued to skyrocket.

Ozempic is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat Type 2 diabetes, but some doctors prescribe the medication “off-label” for weight loss, as is permissible by the FDA.

Wegovy, a medication that contains the same main ingredient, semaglutide, as Ozempic, is FDA-approved for weight loss.

Along with physical access to the medications, financial access has also been a barrier for people with diabetes and obesity who might benefit from the drugs.

Without insurance coverage, the out-of-pocket cost for medications like Ozempic and Wegovy can run as high as $1,000 or more per month.

Last month, a U.S. Senate committee led by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont launched an investigation into the high cost of the two medications.

Novo Nordisk told ABC News the company is working with insurance companies to lower the cost of the drugs, as well as with lawmakers to have the drugs covered by Medicare for obesity.

Morris said Novo Nordisk agrees that the medications “need to be more affordable” but did not offer further specifics.

“I can absolutely assure America that we’re doing everything that we can, not only to reduce cost and out of pocket in a way that is consistent with the health care system that we have in the U.S., but also to increase supply,” Morris said. “Our manufacturing facilities are working 24/7.”

She continued, “The plan that we had to be thoughtful and certainly responsible, but also to increase access to this medication by releasing more of those lower doses, allowing more new patients to start, is something that we’ll continue to work on.”

When asked by Reshef where the profit from the sales of Wegovy and Ozempic is directed, Morris said it goes back into research and innovation for new medicines and a unit dedicated to preventing obesity.

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