COPENHAGEN, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Novo Nordisk will step up efforts to treat obesity - a major cause of diabetes - as it moves forward with a clinical study, the Danish drugmaker said on Tuesday.
With its established diabetes treatments in the firing line especially due to U.S. price pressures, Novo Nordisk is pinning hopes for growth on expanding its obesity franchise.
Novo’s next big hope in treating obesity is semaglutide, a new drug in the so-called GLP-1 category which imitates an intestinal hormone that stimulates the production of insulin.
In a research and strategy update, Novo said it plans to initiate a phase 3 clinical trial programme with once-weekly subcutaneous semaglutide in obesity in the first half of 2018.
The clinical programme will enrol around 4,500 people with obesity, it said.
Novo Nordisk will also step up efforts towards having obesity acknowledged as a chronic disease, “and thereby expanding the prescriber base”.
Novo launched its first obesity drug in 2015, marketed as Saxenda.
Brokerage Nordea sees sales from Novo’s obesity franchise rise to $4 billion in 2025, fuelled by semaglutide, which is expected to be approved as a diabetes treatment in December, but as mentioned is being tested for obesity treatment as well.
Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975 and The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2016 more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight with more than 650 million of these being obese - meaning a BMI greater than or equal to 30.
Globally there are more people who are obese than underweight, WHO data shows. (Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Louise Heavens)