Two anti-obesity drugs, Ozempic and Wegovy, have conjured the ghost of a recession in Denmark. The first is typically used for diabetes treatment, but its use against obesity has grown exponentially in recent months. The second is specifically targeted for weight loss. In the second quarter of the year, the Danish economy grew 0.3% compared to the three prior months, and its GDP expanded 1.7% in the first half of 2023. Without the sale of these drugs, the Danish economy, one of the most prosperous in the European Union, would have contracted 0.3% between January and June, in what would have been the first recession since the pandemic.
The owner of both prescription drugs is Novo Nordisk. The pharmaceutical giant is the largest company in Denmark, with a market capitalization worth more than the entire country’s annual output. And its recent share boom —partly due to Ozempic and Wegovy— has turned it into the highest valued company on the continent, surpassing the French luxury colossus LVMH. The Danish firm is now valued at more than €400 billion in the stock market.
“If it wasn’t for Novo Nordisk there wouldn’t have been any growth,” Las Olsen, head economist at Danske Bank, told AFP. “”We’ve never seen anything like it, it’s changing the picture of the economy,” added Jonas Petersen, an analyst from Danmarks Statistik. In the first half of the year, the pharmaceutical industry —which is responsible for approximately 4% of Danish GDP— added almost two percentage points of growth to the Scandinavian country’s growth, according to Joseph Politano at Apricitas Economics.