Novo Nordisk has launched its obesity therapy Saxenda in the US - its first market - with premium pricing compared to other drugs on the market.
Saxenda (liraglutide) is a high-dose version of Novo Nordisk's diabetes therapy Victoza and was approved by the FDA towards the end of last year. It is the first drug in the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist class to be made available for weight management.
The Danish drugmaker has launched Saxenda in the US at a price of just over $1,000 per month, significantly more than other recently-launched obesity drugs such as Orexigen/Takeda's Contrave (bupropion/naltrexone), Arena/Eisai's Belviq (lorcaserin) and Vivus' Qsymia (phentermine/topiramate), although for patients the monthly cost will fall depending on their insurance cover.
Analysts said the price was expected given the cost of Victoza is around $500 per month without insurance and Saxenda contains almost twice the dose of liraglutide.
Clinical trials also seem to suggest Saxenda is more effective at reducing weight, with patients losing at least 5% body weight while its rivals show 2%-5% reductions, although as yet there are no head-to-head studies available
Contrave costs around $200 per month but for patients with insurance the price can come down to around $60-$70, with the price of Belviq and Qsymia in the same ballpark.
"We are pleased to make this new treatment option available, which we believe has the potential to help people with obesity lose weight and reduce weight-related comorbidities," said Jakob Riis, Novo Nordisk's executive vice president of marketing, medical affairs and stakeholder engagement. Saxenda will be launched in additional countries around the world "later in 2015", he added.
More than one-third of adults and 17% of young people in the US are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the estimated annual medical cost of obesity reached $190bn in 2012, making up around a fifth of annual pending on medical care in that year.
While the most recent crop of obesity therapies have generated lacklustre sales, analysts have suggested Saxenda could buck that trend and become $1bn-plus product at peak.