Obesity drug Wegovy takes the world by storm. Could that impact ASX stocks like Holista Colltech?
Health & Biotech
Health & Biotech
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The recent frenzy over Ozempic and Wegovy has propelled its Danish maker, Novo Nordisk, to become Europe’s second-most valuable company (behind LVMH).
The drug maker says it’s currently struggling to keep pace with soaring demand for the highly effective diabetes and weight-loss drugs, which recently sent the company’s earnings and stock price to record highs.
In an announcement this week, Novo Nordisk’s CEO said he will continue to restrict Wegovy supplies in the US as it works out ways to ramp up manufacturing capacity.
In the meantime, the sudden huge demand has led research houses to issue sky-high market predictions for the weight-loss drugs sector, with Morgan Stanley saying that it could surge to $US77 billion by 2030.
The diabetes drug Ozempic, and its sister drug for weight loss, Wegovy, utilise the same medication, semaglutide.
Semaglutide works by mimicking the effects of GLP-1, a gut hormone that helps control blood-sugar levels and reduce appetite. (GLP stands for glucagon-like peptide.)
In clinical trials, Wegovy was shown to reduce body weight in people with BMIs of 27 or greater by around 15% over 68 weeks.
In addition, the studies demonstrated that people using semaglutide and making lifestyle changes lost about 15.3 kilograms, versus 2.6 kilograms in those who didn’t use the drug.
Surprisingly Wegovy was also found to cut the risk of major cardiovascular disease like a heart attack by 20%.
Currently it costs over US$1,300 per month to get weekly injections of Wegovy, but experts believe insurance companies might soon feel pressured to start covering the pricey medication.
As expected, the potential for a big payday has led other big pharmas to rush on to the bandwagon.
In May, Pfizer surprised the market by saying that its oral diabetes drug demonstrated promising weight loss that could work as well as the blockbuster Ozempic.
Eli Lilly meanwhile said its weight loss drug Mounjaro had raked in nearly US$1 billion in Q2, more than US$200m above what Wall Street had expected.
For decades, obesity has been viewed and treated mainly as a symptom of lifestyle choices. But with a greater understanding of obesity’s root causes, it’s now classified medically as a chronic disease.
The CEO of ASX-listed wellness company Holista Colltech (ASX:HCT), Dato Dr. Rajendran Marnickacvasagar (or Rajen), says that diabesity – a portmanteau for diabetes and obesity – is undoubtedly the biggest trend in the world today.
“Look around you, people are desperate to lose weight,” Rajen told Stockhead, adding that he’s not against weight-loss drugs as they serve a purpose for those who are severely obese and diabetic.
Rajen explained that the obesity we see today is caused by a combination of many things, but one major factor is our consumption of refined carbohydrates.
“There’s a lot of bread, noodles, pasta and pizza, which has become the bulk of what we eat today.”
These aren’t the types of foods humans evolved with over the centuries, meaning that it’s not something modern human bodies are accustomed to.
“You’re basically getting a straight injection of pure calories by eating food rich in starch and sugar.”
Rajen added that there’s a better way to lose weight than taking medications, and a little bit of discipline and knowledge should go a long way.
“Instead of drugs, I think most people could shed weight fairly easily and quickly, and also keep it off if they look more toward a dietary kind of solution.”
Holista already has a host of wellness solutions in the market, which include dietary supplements, ovine collagen, healthy food, and infection control products.
The company is now aiming to drive further growth in its dietary supplement division by launching a range of offerings that were specifically developed by NASA for its astronauts.
Called Nugevity, these supplements are expected to be launched in September.
“NASA has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the last 50 years to develop supplements so their astronauts are fit in space, fit when they come back, and don’t die in between,” Rajen explained.
Over the years, NASA has developed a high protein-rich drink, a full vegan protein drink, and an intermittent coffee drink called Keto Brew.
“NASA astronauts are basically on an intermittent fasting and high protein diet to keep their fitness,” said Rajen.
Nugevity will initially be launched in the Malaysian market and on Amazon Singapore, but the company has also set its sights on the ASEAN market which has a population of more than half a billion people.
In addition, Holista is also currently working with a company in Australia to get the necessary TGA approvals.
Meanwhile, Holista’s collagen products are sourced from Australian sheep, extracted using a patented process.
“Australia is the only country in the world with disease-free sheep,” Rajen said.
“And that’s very important because you need the sheep to be disease-free in order to make these products, so Australia has an unbeatable advantage there.”
As for the stock price, like many small caps, Holista has been been struggling and is currently trading at its lowest point.
“I think the only way is up from here, as we expect to post good growth by the end of this year,” said Rajen.
EZZ is a life science company that has the exclusive distribution rights for the EAORON brand of skin care products to pharmacies, supermarkets and specialist retailers in Australia and New Zealand.
The company has recently released three new products – EZZ Children’s Eye Health, EZZ Magnesium Plus, and EZZ Sugar Metabolism – with approval from the TGA to complement the existing range of EZZ branded products currently in the market.
EZZ said these new products were developed for both local consumers in Australia and for export, particularly to China and Asia, following extensive market research.
Forbidden specialises in health focused food products, with the its quinoa and plant-based food range just starting to take off.
The company also says it has found a niche to bring in alternative grains and seeds such as black rice, spirulina powder and roasted pumpkin kernels to the market.
Forbidden has three brands under its umbrella including FUNCH, Sensory Mill and Blue Dinosaur.
The company is very much focused on the growth of its Blue Dinosaur brand across Australia and the massive US market.
At Stockhead, we tell it like it is. While EZZ Life Science is a Stockhead advertiser, it did not sponsor this article.