By Dhanya Skariachan
BENGALURU (Reuters) -Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk aims to bring its blockbuster weight-loss drug Wegovy to India in 2026, after securing regulatory approvals and ensuring it has enough supply to meet demand, a top company official told Reuters.
The market opportunity for the drug is huge in the world's most populous country, where obesity rates are high especially among women. Illegal copycat versions of Wegovy are already being sold through online sites.
"I think there would be quite a lot of patients and quite a lot of doctors who would be interested in this therapeutic area," said Novo Nordisk's India Managing Director Vikrant Shrotriya.
"It will open up a new horizon for healthcare itself, because till now the horizon was only limited to alternative therapies and bariatric surgery, right?"
He urged patients not to buy copycat versions of Wegovy, warning they could be unsafe.
"They should not take it," Shrotriya said in an interview. "It is not licensed. For most of these products, we also do not know any kind of a cold chain and how it has been insured during transportation." Novo holds the patent in India for the active ingredient in Wegovy called semaglutide but has not taken any legal action against the counterfeiters so far. "We have not been able to take legal action because we have not been able to catch them," Shrotriya said, adding that while the illegal sellers were "difficult to trace", the company had not seen any large syndicates selling the drug in India.
He declined to comment on how Wegovy would be priced in India. Novo charges more than $1300 in the U.S. for a monthly supply and about 300 euros ($317) a month in Germany. "When it comes to Wegovy, we have to see the ecosystem at that point of time in 2026," Shrotriya told Reuters, adding that the company would price it "to justify the innovation but also work for access in India".
Wegovy, a weekly injection, is the most effective treatment approved for weight-loss to date at a time when global obesity rates are at a record high.
The drug, along with Novo's diabetes drug Ozempic and Eli Lilly's Mounjaro, belongs to a class of therapies known as GLP-1 receptor agonists that slow digestion, helping patients feel full for longer.
Clinical trials showed Wegovy helped users lose about 15% of their body weight. A large study also showed the obesity treatment had a clear cardiovascular benefit.
Novo first launched Wegovy in the U.S. in 2021 and has introduced it in several European markets, including the UK and Germany. It has struggled to produce enough Wegovy to meet demand in those countries and said it was unlikely to sell the drug in developing nations for a very long time.
Demand in India could be high. The prevalence of abdominal obesity in India was found to be 40% in women and 12% in men, an article in the medical journal the Lancet said, citing data from a National Family Health Survey for 2019-2021.
Shrotriya said Novo aims to be prepared to match the demand.
"When we launch in a country, we want that the continuity of the supply is there," he said.
Some were sceptical about Wegovy's India launch timing.
"A bigger market is always a developed market because of getting high realisation, so I believe India should not be a priority for them," Nirmal Bang's lead pharma analyst Mitesh Shah said, adding that Wegovy's popularity in India was "dependent" on its price.
($1 = 0.9454 euros)
(Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan in Bengaluru; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Sonali Paul)