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Competition Gaining

As China prepares to beef up its weight loss medication market, the Danish firm that makes Ozempic and Wegovy may soon have its dominance threatened.

As Reuters reports, Chinese drug manufacturers are working on creating at least 15 generic versions of the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonist drugs as Ozempic maker Novo Nordisk makes money hand over fist in the region.

Approved for sale in China in 2021, Novo saw the diabetes drug Ozempic sales in the country nearly double over the last few years, topping out at nearly $700 million. While the Denmark-based company expects the drug's weight-loss counterpart Wegovy to be approved in China later this year, competitors are springing up to get in on the GLP-1 cash cow.

In doing so, these competitors may reduce sales margins for the brand-name drug, which is already way cheaper in China than in the United States.


Though Novo won an exclusive patent on Ozempic and Wegovy's active ingredient semaglutide in China, it's expected to expire in 2026. With more than a dozen generic versions currently in trials, those Ozempic competitors won't hit Chinese shelves until then — but with a protracted legal battle over a patent invalidation ruling entering its second year, that timeline could potentially be sped up as well.

Among the frontrunners of the would-be Chinese semaglutide sellers is Hangzhou Jiuyuan Gene Engineering, whose version of semaglutide is said to have "similar clinical efficacy and safety" to Ozempic. The company applied for sales approval in April of this year and expects it to be granted by the end of 2025, though as Reuters notes, it doesn't plan to sell its drug until either the semaglutide patent expires in 2026 or a court rejects Novo's appeal of an invalidation ruling in 2022.

In a statement to Reuters, a Novo spokesperson said that the company "welcomes healthy competition."

If these challenges end up driving prices of the expensive drugs even lower than they have already, however, it's hard to imagine the company remaining cavalier as its stranglehold of the market continues to shrink.

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