Wegovy, a new weight-loss drug, demonstrates heart benefits in trial.

Wegovy, a new weight-loss drug, demonstrates heart benefits in trial.

Novo Nordisk’s Obesity Drug Shows Cardiovascular Benefits, Boosts Hopes for Broader Use

Novo Nordisk

In a groundbreaking development, Novo Nordisk’s obesity drug, Wegovy, has shown clear cardiovascular benefits, raising hopes that it could be used beyond its current perception as a lifestyle drug. This revelation is a result of a large-scale study called SELECT, which involved 17,500 overweight or obese people with a history of heart disease aged 45 years or older with no prior history of diabetes. The study began nearly five years ago to test the medical benefits of the weekly injection.

The recently concluded late-stage trial demonstrated that patients who received Wegovy had a 20% lower incidence of heart attack, stroke, or death from heart disease compared to those on a placebo. This remarkable outcome far exceeded the expectations of investors and analysts, who had predicted a cardiovascular benefit of around 15-17%. It’s worth noting that while these results are promising, they have not yet been peer reviewed.

The improved cardiovascular outcomes linked to the use of Wegovy have ignited enthusiasm in Novo Nordisk and its investors. Following the announcement, the company’s shares soared more than 13% to reach record highs. With a surge of almost 150% over the past two years, Novo Nordisk is now Europe’s second-most valuable listed company after LVMH. This positive development may also prompt U.S. insurers and cost-conscious health authorities in Europe to expand coverage of Wegovy to a broader segment of patients.

However, the classification of weight-loss treatments as lifestyle drugs by organizations like the U.S. Medicare health plan has hindered the widespread adoption of drugs like Wegovy. With a monthly cost of $1,300, the drug’s long-term medical benefits and potential impact on reducing the overall burden on healthcare systems and the cost of treating heart disease in overweight and obese individuals will need to be carefully weighed. Dr. Jeff Levin-Scherz, a consultant at Willis Towers Watson, suggests that the true impact on medical claims savings from drugs like Wegovy may still be years away. While these treatments may prove to be cost-effective in improving patients’ lives, reducing the total cost of care remains a challenging goal.

Major U.S. companies managing their employees’ healthcare benefits have already scaled back their coverage of weight-loss treatments due to escalating costs. The landmark trial data on Wegovy’s cardiovascular benefits could be a game-changer, transforming how obesity is perceived and treated. Martin Holst Lange, the executive vice president for development at Novo Nordisk, believes that Wegovy has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of obesity.

Novo Nordisk plans to file for regulatory approvals to expand the label indication of the weekly injection in both the United States and the European Union later this year. A comprehensive presentation of the trial’s detailed results is expected to be made at a scientific conference in 2023. Analysts are eagerly awaiting these details, and they will likely provide further insights when Novo Nordisk releases its second-quarter results later this week.

Wegovy, which was launched in the United States in June 2021, has rapidly gained popularity in the weight-loss market. It has attracted the attention of patients, investors, and celebrities worldwide, leading to a significant surge in Novo Nordisk’s shares. The drug works by making patients feel full for longer and resulting in an average weight loss of around 15% when combined with changes in diet and exercise. Wegovy belongs to a class of drugs known as GLP-1 agonists, originally developed to treat type 2 diabetes.

This groundbreaking development comes at a critical time, as obesity rates continue to rise globally. According to the World Health Organization, there are now over 650 million obese adults worldwide, more than three times the number reported in 1975. Additionally, approximately 1.3 billion people are overweight, exacerbating conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

The better-than-expected results from the SELECT trial have not only delighted Novo Nordisk and its investors but have also caused a stir among doctors who prescribe anti-obesity drugs. Soren Lontoft Hansen, an analyst at Sydbank, suggests that these results could increase the likelihood of payers in certain markets engaging in dialogue regarding subsidies for Novo Nordisk’s products. Barclays analysts anticipate that a positive outcome from the study could boost the uptake of Wegovy by 25% by 2030 if expanded use receives approval.

Novo Nordisk is already facing challenges in meeting the skyrocketing U.S. demand for Wegovy. In response, the company has reduced the supply of starter doses to the U.S. market to ensure availability for existing patients. Reports of larger doses also being in short supply have been disputed by Novo Nordisk.

This exciting development in the field of obesity treatment not only holds the potential to improve the lives of millions of individuals struggling with weight management but also presents opportunities to reshape healthcare systems and reduce the healthcare burden associated with obesity-related diseases. While further research and discussions are needed, Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy has undoubtedly emerged as a frontrunner in the fight against obesity and its associated complications.