Editors' (re)View: Lilly weighs in on Novo deal; J&J drug brings immune disease hope

Feb. 9, 2024
Pharma Manufacturing editors comment on the notable happenings in the pharma industry from the week of February 5

Lilly weighs in on Novo deal

On Monday, Novo Holdings revealed a massive deal, picking up CDMO giant Catalent for $16.5 billion and then selling off three Catalent fill-finish sites to subsidiary Novo Nordisk for $11 billion.

Given the FTC’s recent scrutiny of pharma deals, it’s unlikely this one is going to go unnoticed. However it seems Eli Lilly — Novo Nordisk’s largest competitor in the GLP-1 weight loss and diabetes space — wants to make sure the antitrust authorities are paying attention.

It started during Lilly’s Q4 earnings call, the day after the Novo news broke, when Lilly’s CFO fielded a related question from an analyst. “We certainly have questions about that transaction and need to learn more,” said CFO Anat Ashkenazi, regarding the Catalent deal. “Catalent is an integral part or manufacturer of both commercial and pipeline products for the industry, especially in diabetes and obesity, and we have products with these sites as well,” she continued, also pointing out that Lilly intends on holding Catalent accountable to its contracts.

The same day, the Financial Times spoke with Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks, who told the outlet that the transaction should be looked at by antitrust authorities because the Catalent client list competes with Novo Nordisk. (Yes, the same industry that spent the last year fending off blows is now summoning the FTC.)

Ricks also reiterated that Eli has contracts with Catalent and intends to enforce them.

Once Novo Nordisk fulfills the preexisting Catalent contracts, the drugmaker plans to use the three acquired fill-finish facilities for its own drugs, Ozempic and Wegovy. This means there will be three less facilities available to other drugmakers for contract fill-finish. With the demand for sterile injectables surging — according to McKinsey, the world will need more sterile products than manufacturers have or can build capacity for in the near future — the industry will likely feel the impact of losing those three plants.

Without a doubt, there will be lot of eyes on how these deals play out. With both Novo and Lilly scrambling to meet demands for their new diabetes/weight loss treatments, hopefully patients waiting on medication don't lose out. —Karen Langhauser

J&J drug brings immune disease hope

Earlier this week, Johnson & Johnson announced promising results from trials of nipocalimab for autoantibody-driven diseases like generalized myasthenia gravis (gMG) and Sjögren's Disease (SjD).

Generalized myasthenia gravis causes muscle weakness, while SjD leads to dry eyes and mouth due to autoimmune attacks. Both conditions require ongoing treatment such as immune-suppressing medications, therapies for muscle strength or dryness management, and lifestyle adjustments. 

In the VIVACITY study, nipocalimab effectively reduced MG-ADL scores in gMG patients. Similarly, the DAHLIAS study showed significant reductions in clinESSDAI scores compared to placebo in SjD patients, offering hope for these prevalent autoimmune diseases lacking advanced treatments.

In 2020, J&J acquired nipocalimab from Momenta Pharmaceuticals for about $6.5 billion, aiming to bolster its portfolio for autoimmune disorders. Nipocalimab belongs to a class of drugs called FcRn antibodies, with analysts estimating potential sales of $20-25 billion by 2030.

gMG affects approximately 20 out of 100,000 people, while SjD impacts between 0.1% and 4.8% of the population. Nipocalimab is the first investigational anti-FcRn to show efficacy in SjD, if approved, would change the lives of many. — Andrea Corona

About the Author

Karen P. Langhauser | Chief Content Director, Pharma Manufacturing

Karen currently serves as Pharma Manufacturing's chief content director.

Formerly the editor-in-chief of Food Manufacturing magazine, Karen was particularly successful at eating all of the snacks that were mailed to her from food companies, as well as reaching readers by establishing her own unique voice and tone on the brand. She made the decision to trade food for drugs in 2013, when she joined Putman Media as the digital content manager for Pharma Manufacturing.

As an award-winning journalist with 20+ years experience in the manufacturing space, Karen passionately believes that B2B content does not have to suck. As the content director, her ongoing mission has been to keep Pharma Manufacturing's editorial look, tone and content fresh and accessible.

Karen graduated with honors from Bucknell University, where she majored in English and played Division 1 softball for the Bison. Happily living in NJ's famed Asbury Park, Karen is a retired Garden State Rollergirl, known to the roller derby community as the 'Predator-in-Chief.' 

About the Author

Andrea Corona | Senior Editor