Weight-loss medications create a boom for companies that fill syringes

Contract drug manufacturers investing billions of dollars to expand or construct factories that fill the injection pens used to administer treatments like Novo Nordisk's (NOVOb.CO) Wegovy in order to capitalize on the booming market for weight-loss drugs.

According to interviews with a dozen company executives, analysts, and investors, pharmaceutical services companies are vying for more fill-finish work, which involves filling the syringes used in the pens.

Tejas Savant, a senior healthcare equity analyst at Morgan Stanley, stated, "Every contract manufacturer with sterile fill-finish capacity wants to add more in order to stay competitive, as it's no longer just about Wegovy." "You also have Lilly’s Mounjaro coming, and others."

Since its launch in the United States in June 2021, sales of Wegovy, the first of a new generation of obesity remedies that mimic the body's appetite-suppressing hormones, have skyrocketed.

The weight-loss drug Mounjaro by Eli Lilly (LLY.N) is anticipated to be approved in the United States this year.

The GLP-1 agonists, of which the weekly weight-loss injections are a part, are a category of medications that, according to some estimates, might be worth as much as $100 billion within the next decade.

Pfizer (PFE.O) and a number of other companies are presently working on the development of oral medicines.

According to reports, Chris Chen, CEO of WuXi Biologics, stated that his company is in discussions with customers about utilizing the pre-filled syringe capacity that it is putting in a German plant that it purchased in 2020.

He referred to the degree of interest as "pretty high" and claimed that he wants to purchase additional plants in Europe in order to better serve GLP-1 customers, but he did not disclose any additional details.

Cornell Stamoran, Catalent's vice president of corporate strategy and government affairs, indicated that the business is establishing "significant" pre-filled hypodermic capacity at its operations in Anagni, Italy, and Bloomington, Indiana.

Both of these locations are located in Europe. In the year 2024, they will be fully functioning. The American business is currently responsible for the fill-finish work at Wegovy.

Last year, contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) began competing for business. Since then, companies such as Lonza(LONN.S), Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, a subsidiary of Fujifilm Corp, and Germany's Vetter have announced approximately half a dozen initiatives worth at least $3 billion.

With Lilly preparing to launch Mounjaro and Novo struggling to meet demand while expanding Wegovy's market presence, the tempo is quickening.

CEO Marc Casper told a Morgan Stanley health conference last month that another Novo partner, Thermo Fisher (TMO.N), is converting facilities used to fill COVID-19 vaccine syringes to handle pens for obesity and diabetes medications.

He stated that there was a severe capacity constraint. A representative of the company declined to comment.

Large pharmaceutical corporations will work with contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) when their in-house capabilities are insufficient.

Before injector pens are constructed, packaged, and delivered to pharmacies and clinics by wholesalers, syringes must first be filled under sterile circumstances. This helps eliminate the risk of contamination.