Novo to launch Wegovy in Asia with February Japan roll-out

The Danish company has picked Japan as the sixth country in which to launch Wegovy despite obesity being a much smaller problem in the Asian country

Jacob Gronholt-PedersenReuters
Published : 23 Nov 2023, 05:49 PM
Updated : 23 Nov 2023, 05:49 PM

Novo Nordisk will launch its hugely popular anti-obesity drug Wegovy in Japan on Feb 22 next year, its first launch in Asia, the company said on Thursday, even as it struggles to keep up with demand in existing markets.

The Danish company has picked Japan as the sixth country in which to launch Wegovy despite obesity being a much smaller problem in the Asian country relative to Western countries.

Most patients in Japan will pay 30% of medical expenses for Wegovy, in line with reimbursement for other drugs, said Novo Nordisk, which is in the process of convincing some governments to pay for Wegovy for the most overweight.

The monthly cost for patients will be 7,504 Japanese yen ($50.15) for a 0.25-milligram starter dose and 42,960 yen for a 2.4 mg dose, Novo said.

Patients in Japan will be eligible for the drug if they have a body mass index (BMI) above 35, or a BMI above 27 for patients with two or more obesity-related comorbidities, Novo said.

Japan has one of the lowest obesity rates in the world. In 2019, only 4.5% of adults in Japan were obese - defined as having a BMI of 30 or above - according to data from the Global Obesity Observatory.

Novo has struggled to keep up with soaring demand for the appetite-suppressing anti-obesity drug, forcing it to limit the number of countries where it has launched and the number of patients who can start treatment.

The company has so far only launched Wegovy in the US, Britain, Germany, Norway, and its home market Denmark.

Wegovy is the first-to-market in a new class of highly effective weight-loss drugs. But analysts say that Novo's supply constraints could allow rival Eli Lilly to get ahead, when it launches its Mounjaro weight-loss drug.