Novo Nordisk U.S. Sales Slump in 2Q and Predicts Continued Decline for 2019

Novo Nordisk

Shares of Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk are down about five percent this morning after the company reported an overall decline in sales during the second quarter of this year. Sales were particularly disappointing in North America, which saw a 10 percent drop, the company said.

Novo reported that for 2019 sales in the United States could face some struggles due to formulary negotiations with pharmacy benefit managers and managed care organizations over the cost of its diabetes treatments. Novo, which is the largest diabetes treatment focused company, said talks with those groups are progressing, but noted that “average prices after rebates are expected to be lower compared with the levels in 2018.” Those lower levels will primarily be due to prices of basal insulin and “changed Medicare Part D coverage gap legislation,” Novo said.

Despite the lagging U.S. sales, Novo said that some of its most popular medications made headway. Sales of Victoza grew two percent in the quarter to 11.7 billion Danish Kronor, or about $1.82 billion. Sales of the weight-loss drug for diabetics Saxenda increased about 35 percent to 1.7 billion kroner, or about $260 million. Diabetes treatment Xultophy saw significant growth during the quarter. Novo said sales grew 154 percent to 720 million kroner, or about $116 million.

Also in the first half of this year, Novo launched its newest treatment, Ozempic, a once-per-week glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) receptor agonist for type 2 diabetes. Ozempic was approved by the FDA in December 2017 and was launched for commercialization in the U.S. in February. Novo said initial feedback from prescribers and payers has been positive and formulary coverage for the medicine is progressing. The weekly new-to brand prescription market share for Ozempic has reached 14 percent, Novo added.

Since its launch, Ozempic has pulled in about $41 million in sales. PM Live reported that the company has its sights set on taking over market share held by Eli Lilly and its powerhouse drug Trulicity. While Ozempic is gaining some ground, PM Live noted it has a long way to go to catch the Lilly medication, which has generated more than $1.5 billion in sales this year.

"Sales growth in the first half of 2018 was driven by solid performance of our key innovative products: Victoza, Tresiba, Xultophy and Saxenda, and the launch of Ozempic is off to a good start in North America. We are encouraged about the clinical trial results for oral semaglutide and we are looking forward to making the first oral GLP-1 treatment available for people with type 2 diabetes,” Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, president and chief executive officer said in a statement.

While Novo faced slumping sales in the U.S. during the quarter, the Danish drugmaker pointed to some of its pipeline advances. The company pointed to positive Phase IIIa results from four of the 10 clinical trials in the PIONEER program with oral semaglutide, a new once-daily GLP-1 tablet for people with type 2 diabetes. Novo said the trials showed statistically significant reductions in both HbA1c and weight for oral semaglutide compared to empagliflozin, sitagliptin and Victoza.

Despite the decline in sales for the quarter, Novo continues to project positive sales growth of three to five percent for 2018. Sales growth and operating profit growth reported in Danish kroner are now expected to be five and seven percentage points lower than in local currencies, respectively, the company added. 

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