A Recent Surge in Novo Nordisk’s Valuation Puts the Spotlight on Its Obesity Treatment Drug Wegovy
As Novo Nordisk dethrones LVMH to become Europe’s most valuable company, with a staggering valuation of $428 billion, the spotlight turns to its weight-loss drug, Wegovy. This milestone comes on the heels of Wegovy’s UK launch, available now on the NHS. But how does this drug differ from its sibling, Ozempic?
The Primary Aims: Obesity vs Diabetes
Both are pharmaceutical drugs that contain semaglutide as an active ingredient, but they are designed for different primary purposes and have varying concentrations of semaglutide.
Wegovy for Obesity Treatment
Wegovy received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2021, specifically for the treatment of obesity or overweight conditions in adults, when accompanied by at least one weight-related comorbidity like hypertension or type 2 diabetes.
The medication is an injectable form of semaglutide, a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, which mimics the action of a natural hormone that regulates appetite. By interacting with the GLP-1 receptors, Wegovy helps to reduce hunger and increases feelings of fullness, thereby helping individuals to eat less and lose weight.
Wegovy is generally used as a part of a comprehensive weight management program that also includes dietary changes, physical exercise, and behavioural therapy. It has been studied in clinical trials, demonstrating significant weight loss in participants compared to placebo. However, like all medications, it comes with a range of potential side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal disturbances.
Ozempic for Type 2 Diabetes Management
Ozempic was approved by the FDA back in 2017, primarily for the management of Type 2 diabetes in adults. It is also based on semaglutide, albeit at a different concentration than Wegovy.
Ozempic helps in regulating blood sugar levels by stimulating the release of insulin when blood sugar is high, and it also slows down the emptying of the stomach. This dual action can help people with Type 2 diabetes manage their condition more effectively.
Interestingly, weight loss has been observed as a “side benefit” of Ozempic. Many patients on this medication have reported losing weight, likely due to the medication’s impact on appetite and stomach emptying. While it’s not primarily designed for weight loss, the weight-reducing effect has been a point of interest for both healthcare providers and patients.
Mechanism of Action: One Hormone, Multiple Uses
Both Wegovy and Ozempic work as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. This means they mimic the actions of the natural hormone GLP-1 in the body. GLP-1 is a multifunctional hormone that plays a significant role in glucose homeostasis, gastric emptying, and most notably, appetite regulation. By activating the GLP-1 receptors, these medications influence specific areas of the brain that control hunger and satiety.
GLP-1 receptor agonists like Wegovy and Ozempic stimulate the GLP-1 receptors in the brain, particularly in regions like the hypothalamus, which is a key centre for appetite control1. By doing so, these drugs increase the feeling of fullness after eating and reduce hunger. This not only helps in managing blood sugar levels by reducing food intake but also contributes to weight loss by decreasing caloric consumption.
The medications also have peripheral actions, such as slowing down gastric emptying and stimulating insulin secretion, especially when blood glucose levels are elevated. This makes them particularly effective in managing Type 2 diabetes.
Recent News: Riding the Wave of Popularity Amid Shortages
Both Wegovy and Ozempic are facing a global shortage due to skyrocketing demand. Limited stock arrived for the NHS in the UK, and the manufacturers are continuing to restrict global supplies. Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical giant behind these medications, said that the limitations are likely to extend into 2024 as the company works to ramp up manufacturing.
In Singapore, Ozempic, and Wegovy can only be obtained through a prescription from a qualified healthcare provider. Private clinics in the country have reported increasing requests from patients for these drugs, even from those who do not have type 2 diabetes or are not obese. Various healthcare providers offer different support programs to manage potential side effects and provide the most sustainable and optimal results with the medication.
So, What Does This All Mean?
Wegovy and Ozempic, despite stemming from the same pharmaceutical giant and bearing similar mechanisms, are tailored for different health conditions. As these drugs gain popularity, it is crucial to remember they are not a one-size-fits-all solution, but should be used responsibly.
- Wegovy: Weight-loss drug firm becomes Europe’s most valuable. (n.d.). BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-66714128
- GLP-1 receptor activation modulates appetite- and reward-related brain areas in humans – PubMed. (2014, December 1). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.2337/db14-0849
- The incretin effect in healthy individuals and those with type 2 diabetes: physiology, pathophysiology, and response to therapeutic interventions – PubMed. (2016, June 1). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-8587(15)00482-9
- Efficacy of Liraglutide for Weight Loss Among Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: The SCALE Diabetes Randomized Clinical Trial – PubMed. (2015, August 18). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2015.9676
- A Randomized, Controlled Trial of 3.0 mg of Liraglutide in Weight Management – PubMed. (2015, July 2). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1411892
- Burger, L. (2023, August 25). Novo says Wegovy drug helps obese people with heart failure in trial. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/novo-says-wegovy-drug-helps-obese-people-with-heart-failure-trial-2023-08-25/
- Wegovy approved for use to treat weight issues; HSA removes unauthorised online sale listings. (2023, April 2). Wegovy Approved for Use to Treat Weight Issues; HSA Removes Unauthorised Online Sale Listings | the Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/wegovy-approved-for-use-to-treat-weight-issues-hsa-removes-unauthorised-online-sale-listings