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Weight reduction medicine are nonetheless arduous to search out — however Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly try to vary that

Injection pens of Novo Nordisk’s weight-loss drug Wegovy are proven on this photograph illustration in Oslo, Norway, Nov. 21, 2023.

Victoria Klesty | Reuters

The insatiable demand for weight loss drugs is trouncing supply, leaving many sufferers struggling to search out the injectable treatments

The dominant weight reduction drugmakers, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly, have stated provide woes possible will not go away anytime quickly, as the recognition of these medicines continues to soar. However each corporations are displaying encouraging progress of their efforts to extend provide. 

“I feel it’ll take just a few years for it to resolve itself,” Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Louise Chen advised CNBC of the availability points. “However I feel each corporations will slowly begin to meet the demand available in the market.” 

Sufferers have flocked to weight reduction medicine similar to Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s Zepbound because the therapies assist them shed important kilos over time, regardless of the medicine’ hefty price tags, blended insurance coverage and handful of unpleasant side effects.

Goldman Sachs analysts count on 15 million U.S. adults to be on weight problems medicines by 2030. Some Wall Avenue analysts venture that the burden loss drug market may very well be worth $100 billion by the top of the last decade.

As demand spikes, a lot of the medicine have slipped into intermittent shortages. However there may be restricted information accessible on how important shortages are or how a lot provide corporations have.

“I hear on a regular basis about sufferers going to pharmacies that simply haven’t got it in inventory for them, particularly because the summer time,” stated Dr. Jeff Friedman, the director of bariatric surgical procedure on the College of Florida, who additionally prescribes weight problems medicines.

However each Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly gave updates on positive supply developments to traders during the last week. They rounded out 2023 with a handful of recent investments in increasing manufacturing capability for his or her weight reduction and diabetes medicine.

These efforts goal to reassure anxious traders that they’ll capitalize on the success of the therapies and to reassure sufferers that they’ll entry the therapies. Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly look to take care of their edge available in the market as different corporations similar to Amgen, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Roche and smaller weight problems drugmakers race to hitch the house. 

Drugmakers kick off 2024 with provide progress 

Novo Nordisk final week stated it had more than doubled its provide of lower-dose variations of its weight reduction injection Wegovy in January in contrast with earlier months, which is able to permit extra folks to start out taking the drug. Shortages have compelled Novo Nordisk to limit the provision of these decrease “starter” doses within the U.S. since Could. 

There may be nonetheless “restricted availability” of 0.25, 0.5, 1 and 1.7-milligram doses of Wegovy, in response to a Monday replace on the Meals and Drug Administration’s drug scarcity database. Sufferers sometimes begin on the 0.25-milligram dose and improve the scale over time to mitigate unwanted side effects similar to nausea. 

Novo Nordisk plans to regularly improve Wegovy provide the remainder of the yr, executives stated on the corporate’s fourth-quarter earnings name final week.

An Eli Lilly and Firm pharmaceutical manufacturing plant is pictured in Branchburg, New Jersey, March 5, 2021.

Mike Segar | Reuters

Sure doses of Eli Lilly’s diabetes drug Mounjaro, which makes use of the identical energetic ingredient as Zepbound, even have restricted availability, in response to the FDA. Each therapies are incretin medicine, which mimic intestine hormones to suppress urge for food and regulate blood sugar.

Nonetheless, Eli Lilly achieved its aim of doubling manufacturing capability for such incretin medicine by the top of 2023, executives stated throughout the firm’s fourth-quarter earnings name Tuesday. They stated the corporate will develop manufacturing with “equal urgency” this yr, with essentially the most important manufacturing will increase occurring within the second half of the yr. 

By that time within the yr, the corporate expects its manufacturing of sellable doses of incretin medicine to be not less than 1.5 instances greater than it was within the second half of 2023, executives stated.

Catalent deal might enhance Wegovy provide

Novo Nordisk and its dad or mum firm, Novo Holdings, unveiled multibillion-dollar offers that might improve Wegovy provide — simply not but.

Novo Holdings on Monday stated it should purchase drug producer Catalent in a $16.5 billion deal. Catalent is the primary provider of fill-finish work, which includes filling and packaging syringes and injection pens, for Wegovy. 

Novo Nordisk will then purchase three of Catalent’s manufacturing websites from Novo Holdings for $11 billion. Novo Nordisk stated that buy will regularly improve the corporate’s manufacturing capability beginning in 2026. 

A normal view of the drug product manufacturing laboratory in biologics and sterile injectables, Catalent, in Brussels, Belgium June 27, 2023. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Yves Herman | Reuters

In a be aware Tuesday, TD Cowen analyst Michael Nedelcovych wrote the Catalent offers will possible “enhance manufacturing quicker” than constructing completely new crops or including extra manufacturing strains to current websites, strikes Novo Nordisk continues to be pursuing. These efforts are extra “costly and time consuming” than the acquisition, he famous.

Eli Lilly CFO Anat Ashkenazi advised traders throughout an earnings name Tuesday that the corporate has concerns about Novo Holdings’ acquisition, particularly since Eli Lilly contracts Catalent to fabricate a few of its medicines. 

However Eli Lilly has stated it does not have significant manufacturing coming from Catalent, so the acquisition could have little impact on its enterprise, Cantor Fitzgerald’s Chen stated.

New crops might improve long-term provide 

Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly have each poured billions into constructing new manufacturing websites that might enhance provide of their weight reduction and diabetes medicine within the coming years. 

On Tuesday, Eli Lilly stated a brand new plant in Harmony, North Carolina, will begin manufacturing of incretin medicine as early as the top of the yr, with merchandise accessible to ship in 2025. 

In a be aware Sunday, Morgan Stanley analysts stated they count on that facility and one in North Carolina’s Triangle Park, which began manufacturing final yr, to assist the corporate considerably improve its capability for supplying autoinjector types of Mounjaro, Zepbound and Eli Lilly’s different diabetes drug Trulicity. Autoinjectors are the normal supply units of these medicines.

The corporate additionally will construct a handful of different amenities over the subsequent few years. Eli Lilly in November stated it will spend $2.5 billion to open a producing website for injectable merchandise in Germany, with building starting this yr.

The drugmaker has additionally invested greater than $3 billion to build two new manufacturing amenities in its residence state of Indiana. 

In the meantime, Novo Nordisk in November stated it will make investments $6 billion to develop its manufacturing websites in Denmark, noting it should end building from the top of 2025 by 2029. The corporate additionally stated it will spend around $2.3 billion to construct out one other manufacturing facility in France. 

Different types of weight reduction medicine might assist 

Various types of weight reduction medicine might additionally assist alleviate provide constraints sooner or later.

Eli Lilly has restricted capability to make autoinjectors for Mounjaro and Zepbound. So, the corporate plans to launch Mounjaro in a supply system known as KwikPen in sure nations exterior of the U.S. The strategy requires further regulatory approvals. The UK recently approved Mounjaro in KwikPen type. 

The drugmaker has stated launching KwikPen types of its incretin medicine will develop provide. That is as a result of Eli Lilly for years has used that system for insulin, so the corporate can faucet into current manufacturing assets to make extra of different incretin medicine. 

KwikPen is a single four-dose pen that covers a month’s therapy. Sufferers utilizing autoinjectors undergo 4 completely different pens monthly.

Wells Fargo analyst Mohit Bansal wrote in a be aware final month that if Eli Lilly launches its diabetes and weight reduction medicine in KwikPen type within the U.S., it may very well be a “supply of provide upside” available in the market for 2025.

However each Eli Lilly and analysts have stated that oral types of weight reduction and diabetes medicine, that are sometimes simpler and cheaper to fabricate, will likely be key to assembly demand.

Eli Lilly is growing an oral drug known as orforglipron, which can have an edge over experimental weight reduction capsules from Novo Nordisk and Pfizer

Eli Lilly’s capsule helped obese or overweight sufferers lose as much as 14.7% of their physique weight after 36 weeks in a midstage trial. The consequence seemed to be in line with the burden discount attributable to Novo Nordisk’s oral drug, however over a shorter trial interval. 

Nonetheless, Eli Lilly could launch late-stage trial information on the capsule in 2025, so it will not be coming into the market any time quickly. 

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