Another day, another win for Novo in obesity, as early oral med appears to beat Wegovy

Novo Nordisk appears to have blown its own drug Wegovy out of the water. The Danish pharma reported early results for a next-gen oral weight loss drug called amycretin, showing 13.1% weight loss after 12 weeks.

Reporting the early phase 1 results during a capital markets day Thursday, Novo was sparse on details but still generated significant excitement.

Amycretin is a GLP-1 and amylin receptor agonist that Novo is hoping will show additive benefits with a differentiated mode of action from its comparable GLP-1 drug semaglutide, marketed as Wegovy for weight loss and Ozempic for diabetes. The therapy is dosed once daily—which could prove to be a huge improvement over the weekly injections of Wegovy and competitor Zepbound, which is marketed by Eli Lilly.

Novo and Lilly, and peers who hope to grab a chunk of the market’s next wave, have been working hard to find oral options that can lessen the treatment burden.

Amycretin has now completed an early phase 1 test, showing the significant weight loss at Week 12 compared to just 1.1% of weight loss by patients taking placebo. Novo also said the med was safe and tolerable and had adverse effects in line with previous studies of the company's GLP-1s, like Wegovy and the clinical therapy CagriSema.

While trial-to-trial comparisons are difficult, Wegovy achieved 14.9% average weight reduction in STEP-1, a 68-week clinical trial of nondiabetic patients with obesity or who are overweight and have at least one weight-related comorbidity. Another study called OASIS showed 15% weight loss after 68 weeks of treatment, with 34% seeing a 20% drop in their weight.

So amycretin seems to achieve the results faster than Novo’s approved med. Novo had dropped a few nuggets about the amycretin trial in a fourth-quarter earnings call in January but kept the efficacy results secret until today.  

During the capital markets day, Novo previewed its other efforts in obesity and weight loss, including plans to start a phase 1 trial for an amylin molecule in weight management this year. A tri-agonist is also expected to enter the clinic in the next 12 months that could improve weight loss efficacy further, Novo said.

The company is continuing to develop CagriSema, which previously showed 17.1% weight loss in a 20-week phase 1 obesity trial, compared to 9.8% for semaglutide. The therapy combines an amylin analog cagrilintide and semaglutide for a once-weekly subcutaneous treatment.

Key focus areas for Novo as the pipeline takes shape are regulating appetite and energy expenditure, weight maintenance, lean body mass preservation and sustained release. Novo boosted R&D spending by 35% in 2023, with 10.5 billion Danish kroner (approximately $1.5 billion) spent in the fourth quarter alone. 

The R&D update sent Novo’s already sky-high shares up 8% Thursday morning to $134.72, compared to $124.75 at yesterday’s close.