By Maggie Fick
LONDON (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Some Britons may get Wegovy’s weight-loss injections after Novo Nordisk launched the drug in the UK on Monday, moving into its second largest European market in just over a month despite struggles to meet growing demand.
Danish drugmaker Novo said in a statement that the weekly injection would be available in the UK “through a controlled and limited launch”.
Wegovy, which has been shown to help patients reduce body weight by about 15% when used in conjunction with exercise and lifestyle changes, is available so far in the US, Norway, Denmark and, as of late July , in Germany.
However, Novo’s inability to keep up with US demand for Wegovy effectively delayed the rollout in most of Europe.
However, growing demand for Wegovy and Novo’s highly effective anti-diabetic drug Ozempic drove its stock and earnings to record highs. Friday ousted LVMH as a listed company on the European Stock Exchange, ending the French luxury group’s two-and-a-half-year reign.
Shares of Novo, which are up 41% this year, jumped 2.3% on Monday to hit a record high of 1,331 Danish kroner ($193). They were up 0.74% at 15.07 GMT.
RockedBuzz via Reuters reported last week that supplies of Wegovy were limited in Germany less than a month after its launch in Europe’s largest pharmaceutical market, highlighting the challenge in Europe.
“We are closely monitoring demand for Wegovy and are working with regulators and providers to ensure that people living with obesity can access and stay in care,” Novo said.
The company and UK drug cost-effectiveness watchdog NICE declined to comment on how much it would cost.
But in an early indication of prices, major online health and beauty retailers Boots and Superdrug said they would charge private patients starting at £195 for a monthly supply of Wegovy.
UK-based online pharmacy chain Simple said the price will range between £199 and £299 ($251-377).
All prices include online consultation with a doctor, prescription and dispensing costs.
In the United States, the drug sells for up to $1,350 a month.
In March, NICE recommended Wegovy for use in adults with at least one weight-related condition and a body mass index of 35, but only as part of the National Health Service’s (NHS) specialist weight management programme. .
The NICE recommendation also stipulates that Wegovy be used “for a maximum of two years”.
Novo said the drug will be available in the NHS weight management program and “privately through a registered healthcare professional”.
It wasn’t immediately clear what the implications of Wegovy’s availability through this avenue would be.
Two of the country’s top private insurers, Aviva and AXA Health, told RockedBuzz via Reuters they would not pay for Wegovy.
“We do not cover treatment as private medical insurance is only designed to cover acute conditions,” said a spokesperson for Aviva, which has 1.1 million UK customers with private medical insurance.
Benenden Health, which provides health insurance to more than 850,000 people in Britain, told RockedBuzz via Reuters it would not cover Wegovy.
Novo did not say how much supply it will make available in Britain. He is working to get European governments and insurers to reimburse Wegovy, trying to position it as more than just a lifestyle drug.
“As we expect supply to be limited for the foreseeable future, some of the available supply will be for use within the NHS only to enable healthcare professionals to implement NICE guidelines,” said l ‘pharmaceutical company.
Around 50,000 eligible patients in England could be prescribed Wegovy through specialist NHS weight management services, an NHS spokesperson said in a statement.
According to a 2019 report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), almost one in three adults in Britain is obese, the highest rate in Europe.
Illnesses related to being overweight account for 8.4% of healthcare expenditure and, when combined with lower labor market output, reduce UK GDP by 3.4%. Obesity is usually defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater.
Obesity is the second-largest preventable cause of cancer in Britain and costs the NHS an estimated £6.5 billion a year, Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said in a statement on Monday.
($1 = 6.8981 Danish kroner)
(Reporting by Maggie Fick; Additional reporting by Alistair Smout and Amanda Cooper in London; Editing by Susan Fenton, Josephine Mason, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Alexander Smith)