Novo Nordisk expands focus to cardiovascular disease as fortunes soar on Wegovy

Credit: REUTERS/TOM LITTLE

By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Maggie Fick

COPENHAGEN, March 7 (Reuters) - Novo Nordisk NOVOb.CO, its fortunes soaring on sales of its obesity drug Wegovy, said on Thursday it was expanding its focus on diabetes and weight-loss therapies to include cardiovascular disease treatments.

CEO Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen, speaking as the Danish company hosts investors and analysts at its headquarters near Copenhagen, made the announcement in the company's first strategy update since Wegovy exploded in popularity.

Jorgensen said Novo was changing its corporate strategy to replace "other serious chronic disease" as a focus area with an explicit targeting of cardiovascular disease.

The change comes after the drugmaker last August said a large study had shown Wegovy also had a clear cardiovascular benefit, boosting efforts by the company to move Wegovy beyond its image as a lifestyle drug.

"We've put extensive work into building a competitive pipeline in cardiovascular disease," Novo's head of corporate development David Moore told investors.

"It's an adjacency but it aligns well with our history in diabetes and obesity," he said.

Wegovy is part of a class of drugs that mimic a gut hormone, GLP-1, that helps regulate blood sugar and appetite.

The cardiovascular benefits of the drug have stirred a debate about whether the long-term medical benefits of weight-loss drugs are enough to reduce the overall burden on healthcare systems and the cost of treating heart disease in overweight and obese people.

Moore said Novo would seek to "maximize" development of its first standalone cardiovascular disease compound, ziltivekimab, which is currently in Phase 3 development for treatment of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease in people living with chronic kidney disease.

In an era of unprecedented levels of obesity worldwide, Wegovy has transformed drugmaker Novo, long known as a maker of insulin.

Novo's market capitalisation stood at about $560 billion going into the capital markets day compared with around $235 billion two years ago when it last held an investor day.

Noveo shares were up 1.3% at 0843 GMT, shortly after the capital markets day began. They are up around 15% since the company reported full-year earnings on Jan. 31, and have risen more than three-fold since June 2021 when it launched Wegovy in the United States.

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(Reporting by Maggie Fick, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Louise Breusch Rasmussen, and Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen; Editing by Terje Solsvik and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

((maggie.fick@thomsonreuters.com; +44 7890 916706;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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