Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen has an issue: Too many individuals need what he’s promoting.

Mr. Jorgensen is the chief govt of Novo Nordisk, the Danish drugmaker. Even when the corporate isn’t fairly a family identify, the TV jingle for its best-selling drug — “Oh-oh-ohhh, Ozempic!” — would possibly ring in your ears. Throughout america, Novo Nordisk’s diabetes and weight-loss drugs, Ozempic and Wegovy, have soared to superstar standing and helped make the corporate Europe’s most dear public agency. It could’t make sufficient of the medicine.

Mr. Jorgensen’s downside is one many high executives wouldn’t thoughts, however the success caught him off guard. Final yr, when the corporate was celebrating its centenary, Novo Nordisk’s income jumped by a 3rd, to 232 billion Danish kroner, or $33 billion.

“No person had forecast this development — no analyst, no one within the firm,” Mr. Jorgensen stated in a current interview on the firm’s headquarters in a suburb of Copenhagen. “No person forecast a 100-year-old firm would develop greater than 30 p.c,” he stated, seemingly torn between delight and amazement.

For many of its 100 years Novo Nordisk has been targeted on the regular enterprise of treating diabetes, one of many world’s most prevalent power ailments. Even as we speak, it produces half the world’s insulin. However the improvement of Ozempic and Wegovy has led to an even bigger and bolder ambition to “defeat critical power ailments.” That features treating, and even stopping, weight problems, which is linked to different well being points like coronary heart and kidney ailments.

By pursuing a a lot bigger goal than diabetes, the corporate expects to unlock the door to a multibillion-dollar market with practically a billion potential sufferers. In america alone, greater than 40 p.c of adults are overweight.

And so the Danish drugmaker is present process huge adjustments — it’s getting greater, extra worldwide and nearer to the warmth of the highlight. Mr. Jorgensen is attempting to ramp up manufacturing to satisfy the massive demand for its weight-loss medicine, keep forward of competitors from Eli Lilly and others and make sure the firm’s future so it could meet its lofty purpose.

However in all of the tumult, there’s something executives are attempting to carry on to: the corporate’s longstanding values, codified within the “Novo Nordisk Method.”

These rules, which embody having a “patient-centered enterprise method,” have helped earn the corporate a superb status at dwelling, the place it’s thought-about a spot the place persons are proud to work. However these guideposts are dealing with stress as tens of 1000’s of recent workers are employed, lawmakers denounce the drugmaker for its excessive costs and counterfeit versions of its products make individuals sick.

The drugmaker’s head workplace is a homage to its roots: a contemporary six-story white round constructing impressed by the molecular construction of insulin. A staircase spirals round an open atrium. On the highest ground, Mr. Jorgensen and the manager workforce share an open-plan workplace house.

“Many people have been right here without end,” Mr. Jorgensen, 57, stated as a snowstorm gathered energy outdoors.

He’s labored at Novo Nordisk for greater than three many years, and have become chief govt in 2017, a turbulent interval when the insulin market was underneath pressure: “Three revenue warnings in a single yr, and the share value had tanked by 40 p.c,” he recalled.

A couple of yr later, Ozempic hit the market.

Now Novo Nordisk constantly beats investor expectations. Final summer time, it eclipsed the French luxurious group LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton to grow to be Europe’s most dear firm. Its market worth exceeds $555 billion.

For these on the sixth ground, who rose by way of the ranks of an organization that targeting insulin, the adjustments are coming rapidly.

“Now it’s new sufferers; a brand new product presentation; typically new molecules,” Mr. Jorgensen stated. “It’s a totally totally different, say, administration system and provide chain that’s required.”

The center of the expansion is semaglutide, Novo Nordisk’s artificial model of a hormone often known as glucagon-like peptide 1, or GLP-1, which helps the physique regulate blood sugar ranges. The patent developed by the corporate additionally proved remarkably efficient for weight reduction. It causes individuals to really feel fuller once they eat and reduces cravings. Physicians say it might revolutionize the best way we take into consideration weight problems and what we eat; meals executives concern the identical factor.

Semaglutide revived the fortunes of Novo Nordisk. A few many years in the past, the corporate was falling behind worldwide friends, with failed insulin medical trials and too little innovation. After which insulin began drying up as a supply of income, as U.S. lawmakers pushed price caps and drugmakers had been compelled to pay bigger rebates.

Ozempic, the model identify for semaglutide, a weekly injection for Kind 2 diabetes sufferers, has been round for greater than six years. However within the final couple of years, there was an explosion in reputation, helped alongside by heavy promoting, social media movies and intrigue over superstar use. Elon Musk said he used it, and on the Oscars final yr Jimmy Kimmel made a gag about it. TikTok movies tagged Ozempic have multiple billion views, with individuals documenting their weight reduction.

As Ozempic started to take off, Novo Nordisk pushed forward with Wegovy, which is semaglutide marketed particularly for weight reduction. By the point it was accepted by the Meals and Drug Administration in mid-2021, the Danish firm knew it had “one thing particular,” stated Camilla Sylvest, the manager vice chairman for business technique and company affairs.

Novo Nordisk leads the pack in weight problems therapy, however it now has robust competitors from Eli Lilly, which sells an analogous drug under the brand names Mounjaro, for diabetes, and Zepbound, for weight reduction. Different pharmaceutical firms are clambering to catch up.

By far, most individuals utilizing Ozempic (two thirds of its gross sales final yr) and Wegovy (practically all of its gross sales) are in america. That’s partly as a result of medicine are typically launched first in america.

Which means the Danes basically have Individuals to thank for his or her financial development. The enlargement of the pharmaceutical business, principally resulting from Novo Nordisk, was chargeable for all of Denmark’s financial development final yr.

The price of these medicine, although, has made Novo Nordisk a goal.

“There isn’t a rational purpose, apart from greed, for Novo Nordisk to cost Individuals practically $1,000 a month for Ozempic,” Senator Bernie Sanders, unbiased of Vermont, stated final month. A frequent critic of excessive drug costs, he stated Canadians paid $155 a month and Germans simply $59.

Ozempic could possibly be a “sport changer” preventing diabetes and weight problems, Mr. Sanders added, however “this outrageously excessive value has the potential to bankrupt Medicare, the American individuals and our complete well being care system.”

Whereas the U.S. checklist value for Ozempic is just a little underneath $1,000 a month and about $1,350 for Wegovy, Novo Nordisk says most American sufferers pay $25 or much less for Wegovy. A lot of the remainder of the price is shouldered by insurance coverage, and a few have been overwhelmed. This month, dealing with ballooning prices, North Carolina quit providing insurance coverage for weight problems medicine for state workers. Even Denmark’s nationwide well being service gained’t subsidize Wegovy, arguing that it isn’t price efficient.

Mr. Jorgensen argues that prime charges of weight problems result in monumental medical prices, and that medicine to finish weight problems finally get monetary savings. “Well being care methods are challenged, with growing older populations,” he stated. “They’re going to interrupt until we do one thing about weight problems.”

Though the corporate’s manufacturing services function 24 hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a yr, the restricted provide of Ozempic and Wegovy is predicted to final for a number of extra years, worrying diabetics whereas counterfeits are leaking into the market.

Manufacturing capability is a recurring headache. Novo Nordisk has greater than 64,000 workers, and visitors jams outdoors its buildings are widespread. On the headquarters in Bagsvaerd, arrivals after 9 a.m. would possibly battle to discover a desk.

So Novo Nordisk is in the midst of remaking itself. Cranes and building staff have descended on its websites because it spends greater than $6 billion this yr to develop manufacturing, practically 4 occasions the quantity it spent simply two years in the past. The corporate is buying more production sites and vacuuming up workplace house in Denmark.

Greater than 10,000 individuals had been employed final yr globally, and the corporate is changing into extra worldwide — particularly American — because it expands analysis places of work in Cambridge, Mass., and buys smaller biotech firms.

Mr. Jorgensen can also be attempting to rework the mind-set inside the firm. A few years in the past, he gathered executives on a retreat for coaching known as NNX, for Novo Nordisk Unknown. The important query, he stated: “What are your personal self-limiting beliefs that might set off you, block you, in truly daring to guide in a unique setting?”

Since then, greater than 400 managers have been by way of this program, meant to assist them sustain with the corporate’s sudden development.

Till drug provides can higher match demand, the corporate says, it must make tough selections about how one can decide who will get what’s obtainable.

Ms. Sylvest says right here she is guided by the Novo Nordisk Method, launched within the late Nineties. It consists of 10 rules, like “we’re curious and innovate for the advantage of sufferers and society at giant” and “we construct and keep good relations with our stakeholders.”

“By some means,” she stated, “it at all times helps us to have these necessities about what’s the correct factor to do.”

Novo Nordisk, she added, doesn’t need to simply promote the place costs are highest — america — however develop entry internationally for low-income individuals or these with inadequate insurance coverage, whereas additionally holding present sufferers on the high of the checklist.

Till just lately, weight problems medicine had a dire historical past, together with when Fen-Phen had to be pulled off shelves within the late Nineties for inflicting critical coronary heart issues.

Weight problems was “a therapeutic graveyard,” stated Emily Area, a prescribed drugs analyst at Barclays in London. The medicine both labored effectively and had unhealthy unwanted effects or led to solely middling weight reduction, she stated.

However the science has modified quickly, together with public opinion on weight problems, which is more and more understood to be a illness that may be medically handled, somewhat than a failure of willpower and poor eating regimen.

Novo Nordisk is chargeable for a few of this altering outlook. Final summer time, a five-year study it financed confirmed that its medicine might scale back the chance of coronary heart assaults, stroke and heart problems. That is “what actually received Novo Nordisk on the radar,” Ms. Area stated.

That makes lots of of tens of millions of individuals potential sufferers. The marketplace for weight problems medicines might develop to $100 billion within the subsequent decade, in keeping with Barclays. To date, Novo Nordisk is treating about 40 million individuals globally with its diabetes and weight-loss therapies.

The U.S. patents on Ozempic and Wegovy don’t expire till 2032, however already Novo Nordisk is engaged on new therapies. It’s in superior improvement of CagriSema, a weekly injection that’s anticipated to be more practical than Wegovy for shedding weight. Final month, its inventory value spiked after early trial outcomes for an oral pill of one other weight-loss therapy.

As the corporate digs deeper into weight problems, which is outlined as having a body mass index above 30, the subsequent query is whether or not the Danish drugmaker can stop weight problems. Can it predict who’s in danger, primarily based on genetics and the information, and deal with them first?

Final yr, Novo Nordisk established the Transformational Prevention Unit, an inner workforce on the lookout for methods to foretell and forestall weight problems.

Not everyone seems to be shopping for the hype. For greater than 4 years, Jefferies has had a destructive “underperform” ranking on Novo Nordisk inventory. Peter Welford, an analyst on the financial institution in London, thinks weight problems medicine will grow to be widespread and interchangeable, struggling the identical destiny as insulin, with larger volumes and stress on web costs.

“Finally, we expect Novo Nordisk must diversify,” Mr. Welford stated. However the financial institution’s guess that Novo Nordisk’s share value is just too excessive hasn’t labored out to date.

“Clearly we’ve been mistaken,” he stated.





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