Danish pharma company Novo Nordisk (NVO), best known for its insulin-based treatments for diabetes, said Tuesday it’s going to shift its focus slightly to fighting obesity, one of the primary causes of that disease.
Novo is advancing its clinical study of its next big hope in treating obesity: 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 will initiate a phase 3 clinical trial program with once-weekly subcutaneous semaglutide in obesity in the first half of 2018.
With its established diabetes treatments in the firing line especially due to U.S. price pressures, Novo Nordisk needs to find new revenue lines that will be less sensitive to political pressures.
The clinical program will enroll 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, fueled by semaglutide.
Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. Globally, there are more people who are obese than underweight, the World Health Organization’s data show. The WHO estimates that in 2016 more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight, with more than 650 million of these being obese – meaning a body-mass index greater than or equal to 30.