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Analysts Differ Most About Potential for Novo's Weight-Loss Drug

Evaluate Pharma report analyzes products with $1 billion-plus sales forecasts for 2026

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Barry Cohen
Sep 07, 2021


  • Highest and lowest estimates for Novo weight-loss drug Saxendal equal 237% of consensus.
  • Analysts skeptical Intra-Cellular schizophrenia treatment can achieve blockbuster status.
  • $11 billion gap for Merck cancer drug Keytruda.
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Novo Nordisk AS’s (

NVO, Financial) weight-loss drug is biopharma’s most controversial blockbuster, according to a report from Evaluate Pharma. The highest and lowest forecasts for the Danish company’s weight-loss drug, Saxenda, in 2026 equal 237% of consensus, according to sell-side analysts. That’s the biggest divergence for any top-selling medication.

The wide ranges of estimates for Saxenda sales are probably due to differing opinions about how fast the company’s follow-up treatment, Wegovy, takes over the weight-loss market. In August, CEO Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen told reporters the company was raising its earnings forecast for the full year, due in part to outstanding sales of Wegovy.

"I think the pandemic has underlined the importance of treating obesity more than ever," Jorgensen told reporters. However, the boost in its earnings estimate has failed to move the company’s shares in the past month.

Evaluate’s analysis was limited to products with at least $1 billion in sales forecast for 2026. The consulting firm then used two different methods to identify products with the widest spread.

Analysts are uncertain whether Intra-Cellular Therapies Inc.’s (

ITCI, Financial) schizophrenia therapy, Calypta, will ever be crowned a blockbuster. That’s why the drug was ranked second with a spread of 186% of its consensus. Evaluate pointed out that single-drug launches are always a bit iffy, adding that Caplyta will face another hurdle in December when the FDA decides whether to expand the drug’s use to treat bipolar disorder.

The Merck & Co. Inc. (

MRK, Financial) cancer drug Keytruda also made the list with a mammoth $11 billion gap between the highest and lowest forecast for sales in 2026, when the treatment is expected to be biopharma’s top-selling medication. In the second quarter of 2021, Keytruda sales climbed 23% to $4.2 billion.

Keytruda’s spread is just 40% of its 2026 sales consensus of $27 billion, so analysts don’t differ as much about the drug’s potential as they do for several other products. The big question mark is how Keytruda fares in price competition from competitors in a different class.

It’s not surprising that analysts have a wide opinion about the sales potential of Biogen Inc.’s (

BIIB, Financial) recently approved Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm, which remains steeped in controversy.

Also up in the air is what we can expect for pandemic products down the line. One question is about Pfizer Inc.’s. (

PFE, Financial) Covid vaccine. How long will it provide protection and will new versions be needed to address future variants? Meanwhile, the Vir Biotechnology Inc. (VIR, Financial) Covid treatment was late to the market and has disappointed.

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I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
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