Novo Nordisk invests $4.1 billion to build a new factory in the United States and support the production of Ozempic and Wegovy

Novo Nordisk and Lilly continue their joint investment race. And rain billions on pharmaceutical production. A few weeks ago, Lilly had injected 5.3 billion dollars for the production of active ingredients, and more particularly tirzepatide, a GLP-1 analogue prescribed both against diabetes (Mounjaro) and against obesity ( Zepbound). Novo Nordisk will not exceed this mark. But the Danish laboratory still announces a budget of $4.1 billion to build a new installation, the second based in Clayton, North Carolina.

An overall envelope of $6.8 billion for production in 2024

With this project, the laboratory will be able to have 130,000 m² of production space, dedicated to its injectable treatments, by 2029. This concerns more particularly the flagship products against diabetes and obesity, the analogues of GLP- 1, including semaglutide, marketed under the names Ozempic or Wegovy.

The recruitment of a thousand people is also planned. In total and for the current year,“Novo Nordisk plans to allocate $6.8 billion to production”, specifies the laboratory while it had injected a total of $3.9 billion in 2023. It must be said that the stakes are high: succeeding in providing a treatment for which demand has exploded in recent months. To the point of causing supply tensions which are not without consequences.

Supply under pressure and counterfeits

In France, the ANSM, the agency in charge of medicines, recommended prescribing the drug only for patients already under treatment. Worldwide, demand is such that it is leading to an increase in counterfeits. The WHO thus alerted, on June 19, of the presence of falsified batches of Ozempic. Boxes detected in Brazil, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Across the Atlantic, the presence of online scams for these treatments has exploded according to the software supplier Mcafee. Phishing attempts increased by 183% and McAfee identified 449 risky sites exploiting demand on Ozempic and Wegovy. Fake products that are even found on classified ad sites. In the best case scenario, customers get what they pay for. In the worst case, they receive something completely different: a pen filled with an allergy product, insulin or a simple saline solution.

An investment race between Lilly and Novo Nordisk

To meet demand, Lilly and Novo Nordisk have nevertheless multiplied the pharaonic projects, extension or new installations. In France, the Danish giant announced a record investment on its Chartres site, still on the filling part. To strengthen its capabilities, Novo Nordisk also acquired sites from the American CDMO Catalent. It finally consolidated the production of active ingredients in Denmark, releasing more than €5 billion. All in less than a year.

Enough to try to meet demand while Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 injectable treatments saw their sales increase by 35%, from one year to the next, in the first quarter. And that the needs will remain significant over the decade. A request which will now concern China since Novo Nordisk has just obtained authorization for Wegovy in this territory, for weight loss. In China, more than one in two adults are overweight and obesity is increasing, particularly among younger people. Novo Nordisk may not have finished announcing investments to increase its production.

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