Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy Approved in China for Weight Loss


China has approved Novo Nordisk A/S’s blockbuster Wegovy for chronic weight management, opening up competition for next-generation obesity drugs in the world’s second-largest economy.

China’s National Medical Products Administration gave the nod to Novo to market the weekly jab for treatment of people who are overweight or obese, the Danish company said in a WeChat statement on Tuesday. The diabetes treatment version of the drug was approved in China in April 2021, under the brand Ozempic.

The much anticipated approval means Novo is finally able to provide a product for weight loss in a market where patients had been relying on off-label use of diabetes drug Ozempic. The market may soon be more crowded.

US rival Eli Lilly & Co.’s tirzepatide, sold as Zepbound and Mounjaro in the US, won approval last month in China as a diabetes treatment and is in regulatory review for weight loss.

Novo shares rose as much as 2.2 percent in Copenhagen. The drugmaker has climbed more than 40 percent this year on optimism over its obesity portfolio.

Chinese drugmakers are also preparing to challenge Novo on both Wegovy and Ozempic. The patent on the active ingredient, semaglutide, is due to expire in China in 2026, five years ahead of Europe and six years earlier than in the US.

Ozempic sales in China more than doubled last year to 4.82 billion kroner ($693.5 million).

China has a growing problem with rising obesity rates, making it a crucial market for companies like Novo and Lilly. In the latest national survey conducted during 2015-2019 by China’s National Health Commission, overweight and obesity rates among Chinese adults were 34.3 percent and 16.4 percent respectively, which means more than half of the adult population was either overweight or obese.

By Bloomberg News

Learn more:

Sanders Targets ‘Unacceptable’ Price of Weight-Loss Drugs Ozempic and Wegovy

Americans paid 10 times more for Ozempic than patients in the United Kingdom in 2023. That wild discrepancy has captured the attention of one of the drug industry’s loudest critics, the US senator Bernie Sanders.

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