Novo Nordisk beats profit estimates as sales of weight loss drug Wegovy more than double

Earnings

The injectable weight-loss medication Wegovy is available at New City Halstead Pharmacy on April 24, 2024 in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson | Getty Images

Novo Nordisk, which became the most valuable company in Europe last year due to the blockbuster success of its weight loss drugs, on Thursday beat first-quarter profit expectations as demand for those medications boomed.

The Danish pharmaceutical giant reported net profit rose 28% year-on-year to 25.4 billion Danish kroner ($3.65 billion), ahead of a consensus forecast in an LSEG poll of 23.7 billion kroner.

Sales of popular weight loss drug Wegovy more than doubled to 9.38 billion kroner.

Overall North America sales rose 35%, as the company flagged that Wegovy had been approved in the U.S. in the first quarter for cardiovascular risk reduction in people with obesity. Wegovy now has 130,000 weekly prescriptions in the U.S., with more than 25,000 people starting on the brand per week during the quarter, the results showed.

Novo Nordisk’s Copenhagen-listed shares opened 1.45% lower.

“We are pleased with the sales growth in the first three months of 2024, driven by increased demand for our GLP-1-based diabetes and obesity treatments,” CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said in a statement.

Novo Nordisk raised its outlook for 2024, nudging its sales growth outlook range one percentage point higher, to 19% to 27% at constant exchange rates. It also upped its operating growth forecast to 22% to 30% from a previous forecast of 21% to 29%.

“They’ve raised their annual guidance a little bit, which is fine. Really there was no other expectation than continued growth, and substantial growth,” John Rountree, managing partner at pharmaceutical consultancy Novasecta, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

“This is extraordinary growth and analysts now expect it to continue,” Rountree added.

It will be important for the company to keep its research and development spend high and innovate as an increasing number of competitors enter the market and patents on drugs expire, he added.

Novo Nordisk faces competition in the weight loss treatment market from the likes of U.S. juggernaut Eli Lilly, and an array of large and smaller firms seeking to enter the market. Eli Lilly also raised its full-year guidance this week.

Recent positive trial data from Novo Nordisk’s experimental new weight loss pill boosted the company’s value further last month.

The company was also bolstered by recent research findings. A European Union regulatory probe earlier this month found no link between increased risk of suicidal thoughts and self-injury with taking Wegovy or Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug Ozempic.

Shares have risen 59% over the last year.

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