It didn’t take much for Novo Nordisk’s “miracle” drugs Ozempic and Wegovy to surge in popularity—after all, they presented a safe path to shed weight while, in fact, reducing some health risks.
Now, major British bank Barclays is predicting the impact and potential uptake of such drugs to be so substantial that it’s recommending that investors short stocks that are targeted by the weight-loss drug industry—including junk food and cigarette companies.
In a Tuesday report, the bank highlighted that the popularity of such drugs could put a dent in the demand for companies such as Pepsi Co., which makes Pepsi drinks, Cheetos and Doritos.
“The impacts of GLP-1s potentially introduce disruption into a number of industries,” Barclays’s strategists wrote, according to Bloomberg.
GLP-1 medications like Ozempic, used to treat Type 2 diabetes, and Wegovy, used as an obesity treatment, mimic a hormone produced in the intestines after meals which helps curb appetite, thus aiding weight-loss.
A possible negative impact of such medication on consumer brands has already begun reflecting in stock prices. For instance, an index of packaged foods is down by about 14% so far in 2023 against a 20% rise in the S&P 500 index for the same period, Bloomberg reported.
Novo Nordisk and Barclays didn’t immediately return Fortune’s request for comment.
The market for Novo’s twin drugs used to aid weight-loss is predicted to skyrocket to $100 billion by 2035, according to BMO Capital Markets. And as these drugs have already shown promise for what they can achieve and have been unofficially endorsed by the likes of Elon Musk, Wall Street is trying to gauge how far their ripple effects could reach.
Investment bank Jefferies said last week that if consumers adopt healthier diets to complement the use of drugs like Ozempic, that could hurt restaurants as well as other players in the food and beverage sector. And because of the high cost of the drugs, the medication could prompt customers to hold back on spending on discretionary goods like furniture.
Are there any winners?
While weight-loss drugs might harm business in some sectors, they aren’t without their fair share of winners.
Barclays expects players like American pharmacy chain CVS Health to be among the beneficiaries of the fast-growing weight-loss medication industry as more patients get prescriptions for such drugs.
Banks also anticipate there to be companies that indirectly gain from this trend.
For instance, Jefferies said that United Airlines, a leading American carrier, could save as much as $80 million a year if passengers’ weight fell by 10 pounds as part of a study assessing the broader ripple-effects of popularity of weight-loss medications.
“Weight is a crucial element for fuel efficiency… Airlines’ biggest expense is fuel, which has been exacerbated as jet fuel prices have rebounded,” Jefferies analysts wrote, according to Insider.
The rise of Novo Nordisk
Aided by the stratospheric rise of weight-loss and diabetes drugs, Novo briefly became Europe’s most valuable company last month, dethroning luxury brand LVMH. That’s also when the company debuted in the U.K., its fifth market globally, where Wegovy was hailed as a “game-changer” by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
The Danish company, which has been around for about 100 years, has seen a meteoric rise in recent years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Ozempic in 2017, while Wegovy was approved in 2021—making it the first weight-loss drug to be approved by the body in eight years.
As the company began to expand beyond the U.S., which still remains a key market, Novo’s market value overtook the size of Denmark’s economy in 2022. The sheer scale of the company’s business has even safeguarded Denmark from a recession.
Demand for Novo’s blockbuster drugs have quickly outpaced supply, leading it to curb its starter doses. In Britain, Wegovy’s release has been in a “limited and controlled manner” anticipating a deluge of customers. All the buzz surrounding these drugs have resulted in a crop of fake drugs being peddled to desperate consumers as unauthorized versions of semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy and Ozempic.