Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk (NYSE:NVO) rounded out the first half of the year with solid second-quarter results, setting up a base to grow from as it launches oral semaglutide later this year.

Novo Nordisk results: The raw numbers

Figures are reported in Danish krone (DKK).


Q2 2019

Q2 2018



30.0 billion DKK

27.4 billion DKK


Income from operations

13.5 billion DKK

12.2 billion DKK


Earnings per share

4.03 DKK

4.26 DKK


Data source: Novo Nordisk. 1 Danish krone (DKK) = $0.15 as of Aug. 15, 2019.

What happened with Novo Nordisk this quarter?

  • Novo Nordisk continues to benefit from the strong Danish krone. At constant exchange rates, sales were up a more modest 6% year over year.
  • The company hedges that currency risk, which created a financial expense in the quarter, compared to financial income in the year-ago quarter. That difference, combined with higher taxes, explains the decline in earnings despite the double-digit growth in operating profit.
  • Sales of diabetes products were up 7% year over year. Novo Nordisk's insulin sales continue to struggle, down 2% year over year, as they face pricing pressure from insurers. But the GLP-1 drugs, especially recently launched Ozempic, were up a resounding 31% year over year.
  • Hemophilia products jumped 13% thanks to the rollout of NovoEight and Refixia for hemophilia A and B, respectively.
  • To boost future sales of Ozempic, Novo Nordisk started three phase 3b clinical trials: Focus will test the drug in patients with diabetic retinopathy, Flow will test the drug in diabetic patients with chronic kidney disease, and Sustain Forte will compare two doses of the drug. Novo Nordisk also started a cardiovascular outcomes study for oral semaglutide, which has the same active ingredient as Ozempic and is currently under review by the Food and Drug Administration.
Doctor talking to a patient in front of a window.

Image source: Getty Images.

What management had to say

Novo Nordisk is up for another round of negotiations with insurers to get its insulin products on their formularies -- the list of products they cover -- at the best possible price, but president and CEO Lars Jorgensen wasn't willing to give much detail at this point:

So I cannot really tell you much about the formulary discussions for 2020, those are ongoing and we cannot share the details of that. We do not know yet truly how that will play out. And guidance for 2020 will be included in our full year accounts.

Jorgensen also talked about getting coverage for oral semaglutide, but the discussions are somewhat limited until the drug is actually approved:

In terms of time of market access, right now, where we do not have product approved by the FDA, we cannot go into specific contracting discussions. So, the discussions we have in the US, say medical type discussions, where we are making sure that payers have a good insight to look into the profile of the product and those are being conducted as we speak and we believe they're going very well. We do not know yet how the actual contracting will play out.

Looking forward

With the solid first half to the year, management increased its 2019 guidance and now expects revenue for the year to grow by 4% to 6% at constant exchange rates, up from previous guidance of 2% to 5%. Management also increased the bottom end of guidance for operating profit, which is now expected to be in the 4% to 6% range at constant exchange rates, while the range previously bottomed out at 2%.

Later this quarter, the FDA should approve oral semaglutide and launch Novo Nordisk's next phase of growth.

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