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Drugmaker Novo Nordisk beats Q1 profit expectations, nudges up 2018 outlook

[COPENHAGEN] Denmark's Novo Nordisk , the world's biggest maker of diabetes drugs, reported first-quarter operating profit above expectations on Wednesday and raised the lower end of its 2018 sales and profit forecast.

Operating profit fell 8 per cent to 12.4 billion Danish crowns (S$2.7 billion) in the January to March quarter compared with a year ago, hit by the depreciation of the US dollar, but beat an average 11.8 billion crown forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts.

With its traditional insulin treatments in the firing line due to US price pressure, Novo Nordisk is pinning hopes for growth on new obesity drugs and a once-weekly injection and tablet version of its semaglutide drug.

Novo Nordisk said the initial feedback for its Ozempic diabetes drug, known generically as semaglutide, was positive and that the formulary coverage was "progressing well".

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Novo Nordisk hopes that Ozempic, launched in February, will take market share from Eli Lilly's Trulicity, which has cut into sales of Novo Nordisk's once-daily Victoza.

Novo now expects 2018 sales growth of 3-5 per cent compared with 2-5 per cent previously and operating profit growth of 2-5 per cent from 1-5 per cent, both measured in local currencies.

Sales growth and operating profit growth reported in Danish kroner are now expected to be 6 and 9 percentage points lower than in local currencies, respectively, compared with a previous forecast of 7 and 10 percentage points lower.