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Taking new weight-loss drug Wegovy by pill is just as effective as a shot, study finds

Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen, chief executive officer of Novo Nordisk.
Christopher Goodney—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Novo Nordisk weight-loss drug semaglutide, sold as the once-weekly Wegovy shot, was effective as a daily pill in a study. 

People with obesity or who were overweight and had another health problem lost an average of 15.1% of their body weight when assigned to take the pill, compared with a 2.4% loss in a group given a placebo, the Danish drugmaker said. Both groups also made lifestyle changes.

About 85% of the semaglutide group lost 5% or more of their body weight, compared with about 26% on placebo. Gastrointestinal side effects were the most common.

The results are comparable to those of a study with the injectable form of the drug, said Martin Holst Lange, Novo’s executive vice president for development. Patients could potentially be offered a choice between a daily pill or weekly shot, he said. 

The dramatic success of the new category of weight-loss drugs has catapulted Novo to Europe’s second-most valuable company, behind luxury group LVMH. However, the company has struggled to make enough of its new drugs to meet demand. 

There’s a race going on to develop a weight-loss pill that’s as effective as existing injections. Pfizer Inc. published positive mid-stage trial results from its own pill, called danuglipron, on JAMA Network on Monday. The Pfizer study was smaller than Novo’s late-stage trial and focused on patients with type 2 diabetes.

Novo stock rose 2.7% in Copenhagen on Monday, but its American depositary receipts declined in the US after the Pfizer publication. 

The Novo pill’s future probably hinges on overcoming manufacturing constraints, especially because of the large volume of the medicine that’s needed for dosing by mouth, according to Peter Welford, a London-based analyst with Jefferies. Sales of the oral version of the drug could reach $8 billion a year, he wrote in a note.

Novo expects to file for regulatory approval for the pill in the US and EU this year. A launch will depend on portfolio priorities and manufacturing capacity, the company said. 

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