Packages of the weight-loss drug Wegovy from the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk lie on the sales counter in a Danish pharmacy.
Stefan Trumpf | Picture Alliance | Getty Images
Novo Nordisk launched its Wegovy weight loss injection in the U.K. on Monday, advancing the drug’s rollout in Europe despite ongoing supply constraints.
The Danish pharmaceutical giant said that the weekly injection would be available initially “through a controlled and limited launch,” with only certain patients eligible to receive the drug on the country’s National Health Service.
To qualify for treatment, patients must be on the NHS’s weight management service, have at least one weight-related condition and have a body mass index of 35, according to recommendations outlined by the National Institute for Care and Excellence.
The drug will also be available privately through a “registered healthcare professional,” Novo Nordisk said in a statement, without adding further detail.
Novo Nordisk declined to disclose the final price agreed with NHS England for the drug, but said that NICE, the U.K. drug cost-effectiveness watchdog, had described it as a “cost-effective use of NHS resources.” It added that the cost in the private market will be “determined by licensed prescribers.”
In the U.S., Wegovy has a list price of $1,350 for a monthly dose, while in Europe it retails for around 170 to 300 euros ($190-$330) per month.
British insurance company Aviva, which provides private health insurance to around 1.1 million Brits, on Monday said that Wegovy would not be covered under its policy, according to Reuters.
‘Closely monitoring’ supply issues
Wegovy’s U.K. expansion comes just over a month after the drug launched in Germany — its third European market at the time, after Denmark and Norway.
Surging demand for the weight loss drug, as well as a series of clinical studies which point to its wider health benefits, have shot the company’s shares to record highs. On Friday, it briefly unseated French luxury goods behemoth LVMH to become Europe’s most valuable company.
Supply constraints continue to weigh heavy on the drug’s rollout, with CEO Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen telling a Reuters Newsmakers event last month that it could be “some years” before the company can satisfy all consumers.
In the U.K., Novo Nordisk said that “a proportion” of available supply would be allocated specifically for NHS treatment, and that the company would work with healthcare professional to ensure that “patients with the highest unmet medical need” are prioritized.
“We are closely monitoring Wegovy demand and are working with regulators and providers to ensure people living with obesity can have access to and remain on treatment,” it added.
The company has also limited provisions in other markets. In May, it cut the U.S. supply of starter doses to ensure continuity for existing patients, while in Germany it advised doctors to “prescribe responsibly,” limiting prescriptions to patients with medical needs.