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Novo Nordisk's Wegovy weight loss drug approved in China

Novo Nordisk said Tuesday that its Wegovy weight loss treatment has been approved in China for long-term weight management, opening up the blockbuster drug for sale in the world's second largest economy.

China's National Medical Products Administration "recently" approved the weekly injectable drug, Novo Nordisk said in a press release on the Chinese version of its website, according to Google translate.

The drug will initially be available to patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30kg/m2 — the threshold for obesity — and at least one weight-related comorbidity, it added. Weight-related comorbidities refer to additional medical conditions that someone with obesity can develop due to their weight.

Novo Nordisk did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for further information on the proposed pricing and rollout timeline of the drugs. The Danish pharmaceutical giant said in March it would initially focus on patients paying out-of-pocket, Reuters reported.

Novo Nordisk shares were up 1.8% as of 9:18 a.m. London time.

The approval comes as the patent on the drug's active ingredient, Semaglutide, is set to expire in China in 2026 and as competition heats up from domestic drug makers in the market.

More than half of China's 1.4 billion population are overweight or obese, according to a 2020 report from the country's National Health Commission.

Meanwhile, clinical trial records show around 15 generic versions of Ozempic and Wegovy are currently being developed in China, Reuters reported last month.

The company's Ozempic diabetes drug was approved in 2021 and saw sales in the greater China region double last year.

Novo Nordisk and competitor Eli Lilly have been struggling to keep up with surging demand for their obesity treatments.