Novo Nordisk is going all in on Ozempic, its once-weekly GLP-1 injection for diabetes that was approved by the FDA in December 2017. The Danish pharma has shifted marketing spend away from Victoza, its once-daily GLP-1, to promote the new drug as it makes a push on TV to unseat its class rival, Eli Lilly’s Trulicity.
Sales of Victoza (liraglutide), an older drug, have been undercut by Trulicity (dulaglutide), the Lilly GLP-1 that launched in 2014 and commands 40% of the GLP-1 market. However, Ozempic (semaglutide) comes with added heart and weight-loss advantages that Novo hopes will give it an edge over rivals.
In a Q2 earnings call this month, Novo CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company is focusing on Ozempic, which has access of above 60%. “Almost all sales districts are now promoting Ozempic,” he said, adding that the company had launched its first national DTC campaign about the injectable that highlights “the clinical benefits on HbA1c lowering and reduction of body weight.”
In the 90-second ad, which Novo said began airing on August 1, patients exclaim over Ozempic’s benefits to the beat of the song “Magic,” by Pilot. (“You may lose weight,” the narrator says via voiceover. In a one-year study, “adults lost on average up to 12 pounds.”) In the 14-day period ending August 18, Novo spent an estimated $6.5 million on TV media on Ozempic and $0 on Victoza, according to data from iSpot.Tv. During this same period, Lilly’s Trulicity had an estimated TV spend of $7.9 million.
Novo is relying on a strong performance from Ozempic to offset pricing pressure on the category as a whole. While the drug lags far behind Trulicity (and Novo’s own Victoza) in terms of market share, analysts have been optimistic that it can play catch-up.
Victoza and Ozempic, both approved for diabetes, have also both shown reductions in cardiovascular disease. According to a Credit Suisse report released in June following the American Diabetes Association 2018 meeting, CV benefit may be a differentiator.
Data from “CVOT [cardiovascular outcomes trials] will pretty much trump everything else,” the analysts noted, based on a call with an endocrinologist KOL. Lilly has a CVOT for Trulicity in the works, called REWIND, per the report.
According to Reuters, analysts have projected that annual sales of Ozempic will hit $3.17 billion by 2023, while sales of Trulicity will reach $3.71 billion over the same period. For the first half of the year, revenues were $41.2 million for Ozempic and $1.46 billion for Trulicity.
Novo is also seeking approval for a once-daily oral version of its drug, with a regulatory submission planned for 2019. As the first GLP-1 tablet, and possibly the world’s first biologic in pill form, oral semaglutide has the potential to be a blockbuster that could help Novo recapture market share from Lilly.
Correction: an earlier version of this article had mistakenly said both Victoza and Ozempic were approved for weight loss. That is not the case.