Novo Nordisk faces competition as patents for diabetes, weight loss drugs expire in China.


Novo Nordisk has been very profitable in the Chinese market with its weight loss and diabetes medications, but the patents for these two drugs are about to expire.

Novo Nordisk faces increasing competition in the Chinese market. According to clinical trial records, at least 15 generic drugs are under development, covering its diabetes drug Ozempic and weight loss treatment Wegovy.

The Danish pharmaceutical company has high hopes for the demand of its star drugs in China, as the country is considered to have the largest number of overweight and obese individuals globally.

Ozempic was approved in China in 2021, and last year Novo Nordisk's drug sales in Greater China doubled to 4.8 billion Danish Kroner (approximately USD 698 million). Wegovy is also expected to gain approval this year.

However, the patent for semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy, will expire in China in 2026. Novo Nordisk is currently facing a patent lawsuit in China.

If the court rules unfavorably, its patent protection for semaglutide could expire earlier, making China the first major market to lose patent protection for this drug.

This situation has attracted several Chinese pharmaceutical companies. According to clinical trial database records reviewed by Reuters, at least 11 semaglutide drug candidates are in the final stages of clinical trials in China.

Karan Verma, a medical research and data analyst at information service provider Clarivate, said: "Ozempic has achieved unprecedented success in mainland China... With the patent soon to expire, Chinese pharmaceutical companies are eager to seize an advantage in this field."

The leading Hangzhou Jiuyuan Gene Engineering Co. has already developed a treatment claimed to have "similar clinical efficacy and safety" and applied for sales approval in April. The company has not yet disclosed efficacy data nor responded to information requests.

In January, the company stated it expects approval in the second half of 2025, but warned it cannot commercialize the drug before the patent expires in 2026 unless a Chinese court ultimately rules the patent invalid.

Analysts point out that the expiration of Novo Nordisk's semaglutide patent in China is much earlier than in other major markets such as Japan, Europe, and the United States. This disparity is mainly due to patent term extensions obtained by Novo Nordisk in specific regions.



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