By Maggie Fick

LONDON (Reuters) – Novo Nordisk has hired U.S. private contract manufacturer PCI Pharma Services to handle assembly and packaging of Wegovy, a source familiar with the matter said, as it races to boost output of the weight-loss drug to meet demand.

Philadelphia-based PCI, which has 15 facilities in North America, Europe and Australia, is putting together the self-injection pens used to administer Wegovy, said the source, who declined to be named because the information is confidential.

The source did not say when Novo signed up PCI. At its most recent investor day, in March 2022, the Danish drugmaker said in a presentation that it was doing the assembly and packaging work for Wegovy in-house.

Assembling the pens after a glass cartridge is filled with the drug elsewhere is the final stage of manufacturing before Wegovy is shipped.

Novo declined to comment on PCI’s work, but said Wegovy is currently assembled and packed by Novo and external partners.

Wegovy is the first-to-market in a new class of highly effective weight-loss drugs and its booming sales have led some analysts to predict the obesity market could be worth more than $100 billion by the end of this decade.

Record profits from Wegovy and its type 2 diabetes drug Ozempic, which contains the same active ingredient, helped Novo became Europe’s most valuable listed company earlier this month, with a market capitalisation of about $420 billion.

Used alongside changes to diet and exercise, Wegovy leads to an average weight loss of around 15%, studies show.

But Novo has been unable to keep pace with demand for the drug in the five markets – the United States and four European countries – where it is available.

The company is spending billions of dollars to ramp up production, by building new factories and hiring more contract manufacturers to fill the pens.

Wegovy is part of a class of drugs known as GLP-1s used to treat diabetes and obesity. In the United States, where it was launched in June 2021, it is the first and so far only one of a group of newer and more effective GLP-1 drugs approved specifically for weight loss.

Eli Lilly’s GLP-1 drug Mounjaro was launched in the United States last year for type 2 diabetes and is expected to be approved there for weight-loss by year-end, while rival companies are developing their own GLP-1 drugs.

PCI has six U.S. facilities – in Philadelphia, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin – two in Canada, six in Europe and one in Australia.

The Novo contract is part of PCI’s U.S. work on GLP-1 drugs, which includes assembling and packaging of vials, pre-filled syringes, auto-injectors and pen-cartridges which are used for GLP-1s, the source said.

(Reporting by Maggie Fick; Editing by Josephine Mason and Catherine Evans)

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