This was the emphatic message from Lars Freuergarad Jorgensen, the Chief Executive of Novo Nordisk, when he presented at the company’s Capital Markets Day in Denmark last week, which your author attended. Mr. Jorgensen was referring to the global battle with diabetes and obesity. He cited disturbing data from a recent Lancet publication which showed that over 1bn people worldwide are now obese, greater than the number suffering from malnutrition.

Most shockingly, just 2% of those with obesity are currently treated, per Novo. As the world’s largest manufacturer of drugs for managing diabetes and obesity, Novo is well-positioned to move the debate “beyond weight.” For Novo, the company’s key focus and corresponding drug development pipeline, is centred on “achieving outcomes” and “allowing people to live healthier, longer lives.”

The 150+ attendees at Novo’s HQ – where the atrium is shaped like an insulin molecule – learned about the damaging impact of diabetes and obesity as well as Novo’s solutions for managing these challenges. A typical type-2 (lifestyle-induced) diabetes sufferer can expect to have a life expectancy eight years shorter than that of someone without the illness. 30% of those living with diabetes are likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases and 40% from chronic kidney disease. Just 15% of people with diabetes are “in control” of the illness.The numbers are even more concerning for obesity. Of those currently being treated by Novo, 78% suffer from at least one other co-morbidity (or related illness), 53% from two and 37% from three (all data courtesy of Novo).

No surprise then that “there is a significant unmet need.” Novo’s drugs currently reach just 1m obesity sufferers today. Increasing drug production on the part of Novo linked with more health authorities providing access are helping to change this paradigm. Production of Ozempic insulin pens have tripled in the last two years. Meanwhile, Novo’s capital expenditure plans on new facilities are likely to double again between 2023 and 2024, just as in the prior 2022-2023 period. Wegovy, Novo’s latest obesity drug, is currently available in nine countries, but more should follow. Ultimately, Novo’s goal is to offer “more life, more health” to people globally. We expect this future trend to keep running.

12 March 2024

The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Heptagon Capital is an investor in Novo Nordisk. The author of this piece has no personal direct investment in the business. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.

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Alex Gunz, Fund Manager

Photos taken by the author

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