Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Diabetes Drug Battle: Novo Nordisk Confronts Generic Competition for Ozempic and Wegovy in China

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Novo Nordisk is bracing for increased competition in the Chinese market, where at least 15 generic versions of its diabetes drug Ozempic and weight loss treatment Wegovy are being developed, as indicated by clinical trial records. The Danish pharmaceutical company has high expectations for the demand for these blockbuster drugs in China, which has the world’s largest population of overweight and obese individuals.

Ozempic received approval in China in 2021, and sales in the greater China region doubled to 4.8 billion Danish Krone ($698 million) last year. Novo Nordisk anticipates that Wegovy will be approved this year. However, the patent on semaglutide, the active ingredient in both drugs, is set to expire in China in 2026. Novo Nordisk is currently engaged in a legal battle over the patent in the country, and an unfavorable court ruling could result in losing semaglutide exclusivity even earlier, making China the first major market where the company faces such a challenge.

Chinese Drugmakers Push Diabetes Drug Generics as Novo Nordisk’s Semaglutide Patent Nears Expiry

Numerous Chinese drugmakers are developing semaglutide alternatives, with at least 11 candidates in the final stages of clinical trials. Hangzhou Jiuyuan Gene Engineering, for instance, has developed a treatment it claims has similar efficacy and safety to Ozempic and has applied for approval. Other companies such as United Laboratories, CSPC Pharmaceutical Group, Huadong Medicine, and Sihuan Pharmaceutical Holdings Group are also advancing their generics.

Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide patent is expiring in China much earlier than in other key markets like Japan, Europe, and the U.S., due to regional patent term extensions. The company also faces a 2022 ruling by China’s patent office that invalidated the patent over experimental data issues, a decision Novo Nordisk is contesting.


Novo Nordisk Prepares for Price Cuts Amid Rising Diabetes Drug Competition in China

Despite welcoming healthy competition, Novo Nordisk is cautious about the potential impacts. If Chinese generics prove to be as safe and effective as Novo’s drugs, they could drive prices down. Analysts from Goldman Sachs predict a 25% price reduction for semaglutide in China. Currently, the weekly Ozempic injection costs around $100 per 3mL dose through China’s public hospital network.

The competition is not limited to domestic companies. Internationally renowned firms like Eli Lilly, whose diabetes drug Mounjaro was approved in China in May, are also vying for a share of the market. Novo Nordisk acknowledges the upcoming competition, with expectations that more players will enter the market due to ongoing clinical trials.

The Chinese market for weight loss and diabetes drugs is set to be fiercely competitive. While Novo Nordisk and its rivals ramp up production to meet demand, the market’s leadership remains uncertain. Factors such as efficacy, durability of treatment, and sales capabilities will determine which company emerges as the leader in this rapidly evolving market.


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Resource: <a href="https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/novo-nordisk-braces-generic-challenge-ozempic-wegovy-china-2024-06-05/”>Reuters, June 07, 2024

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