Climbing the Dunes

A Steady Climb in Obesity or a Blockbuster Breakthrough?

Making progress in obesity care continues to be a slow and steady business. Nearly 100 million Americans have this complex chronic disease. But it’s so stigmatized that most people don’t really want to think about it – let alone seek care. But progress continues, with a steady climb on all fronts.

News from Novo Nordisk – now the leader in obesity medicines – offers a picture of that steady climb.

Expanding the Label for Saxenda

FDA this week added more safety and efficacy data to the labeling for Saxenda, Novo Nordisk’s brand for liraglutide in obesity. The gist of this new labeling is to expand the assurances of long-term safety and efficacy for this drug in obesity. Drug labeling – the package insert – can put you to sleep. But it’s where you’ll find all the facts and just the facts. The PI defines the product. It makes it or breaks it.

This labeling change is no breakthrough, but it should add to a continued steady climb for the drug. It’s no blockbuster (yet). But sales in 2016 surpassed $200 million and they’re still climbing.

Looking for a Blockbuster in Semaglutide

Novo Nordisk has another drug in the same class as liraglutide – GLP-1 agonists – waiting for FDA approval. It’s called semaglutide. The approval might come this year, albeit only for treating type 2 diabetes.

In an interview with Bloomberg earlier this month, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen described high expectations for semaglutide. The pivotal phase 2 study is wrapping up for semaglutide in obesity. Novo Nordisk is also studying semaglutide for NASH, a complication of obesity that’s sometimes called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

In addition to all that, an oral form of semaglutide is a very tantalizing possibility. You see, people really, really don’t like being poked with a needle. So some industry analysts are saying that semaglutide could reach $35 billion in sales – an unprecedented feat.

Promises of blockbusters in obesity have led to many disappointments. But the need for more and better treatment options is real. We’re betting on a steady climb, punctuated with a few breakthrough successes along the way.

Click here for more from Bloomberg and here for more on the Saxenda news from FDA.

Climbing the Dunes, photograph © Edward Musiak / flickr

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April 29, 2017