Novo Nordisk strikes deal to ramp up Ozempic production

As Ozempic becomes more challenging to acquire than a Cabbage Patch Kid on Christmas Eve in 1983, the drugmaker behind it is making a big money move to help increase production. 

What happened: Novo Nordisk — maker of blockbuster diabetes and weight-loss drugs Ozempic and Wegovy — struck a US$11.5 billion deal to acquire three factories from Catalent, a drug manufacturer that was bought by Novo Nordisk’s parent as part of a larger transaction. The deal will increase capacity to help meet relentless demand for the drugs. 

  • Catalent handles fill-finish operations — the last stage of drug production in which drugs are filled into syringes, quality-checked, labelled, and packaged.

Catch-up: Ozempic (which you’ve 100% seen ads for) and Wegovy are part of a class of drugs which mimic the GLP-1 hormone, helping users produce insulin more efficiently or feel full. Their bonkers popularity has made Novo Nordisk the most valuable company in Europe

Why it matters: Novo Nordisk’s acquisition will allow it to increase production capacity to help meet global demand. In Canada, an Ozempic shortage is set to last through next month, and Wegovy isn’t even available, despite regulatory approval, due to high demand elsewhere. 

Big picture: Several provinces have taken steps to restrict access to Ozempic and protect supply, leaving some users out in the cold. Last week, Ontario restricted coverage for Ozempic under the provincial drug plan to only patients with Type 2 diabetes.

Zoom out: Some health professionals have critiqued measures like this, as they believe obesity — a disease afflicting ~30% of Canadian adults and incurring billions of dollars in healthcare costs — is a valid reason for a prescription as other treatments are limited.—QH