Novo Nordisk Aims to Establish Strong Presence in Obesity Market


Oct. 6 2015, Updated 8:09 a.m. ET

Obesity market

According to projections by Novo Nordisk (NVO), targeting the obesity market by pharmaceutical companies is about 4–5 DKK (Danish krone currency) in value. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.9 billion adults in the world are obese.

The Centers for  Disease Control and Prevention (or CDC) defines body mass index (or BMI) as follows: “BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters.” According to the CDC, a person above 18 years of age is obese if his or her BMI is equal to or greater than 30.0. Obesity is also a major factor leading to diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases.

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The above graph shows the prescription volume uptake of anti-obesity drugs recently launched in the United States. Novo Nordisk’s anti-obesity drug Saxenda was approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) in the United States on December 23, 2014, and by the European Commission in the European Union on March 23, 2015.

The initial uptake of Saxenda has been encouraging with positive feedback from the patient and physician communities. Other anti-obesity drugs saw positive volume uptake after their launch into the market. They include Takeda Pharmaceutical (TKPYY) and Orexigen Therapeutics’ Contrave, Vivus’s Qsymia, and Arena Pharmaceuticals’ Belviq.


Novo Nordisk’s Saxenda is a once-daily glucagon-like peptide-1 (or GLP-1) analog therapy. It’s 97% similar to naturally occurring GLP-1. Saxenda helps regulate appetite by increasing the feeling of fullness, which in turn reduces excessive food intake. GLP-1 therapies such as Saxenda, AstraZeneca’s (AZN) Byetta and Bydureon, and Sanofi’s (SNY) Lixumia also help regulate blood sugar levels.

Investors can get exposure to Novo Nordisk’s upcoming obesity portfolio and avoid excessive risks by investing in the VanEck Vectors Pharmaceutical ETF (PPH). Novo Nordisk accounts for 5.05% of PPH’s total holdings.


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