'Weight-loss drug wealth' shows up in charitable giving

Nonprofit foundations aligned with Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk are now among the largest in the world due to surging sales of drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

Novo Nordisk Foundation now has $114 billion in assets and Lilly Endowment has quadrupled in value to $40 billion, making it the second-largest U.S. foundation after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Lilly Endowment's donations more than doubled to $1.28 billion last year from 2018, marking the highest amount in the endowment's history, CEO Clay Robbins told The Journal. The foundation has many causes in Indiana, with the drugmaker based in Indianapolis, and supports religion, education and community development projects via 645 grant recipients. 

Novo Nordisk Foundation's annual grant awards nearly doubled between 2018 and 2022, to about $1.1 billion. The Bagsværd, Denmark-based foundation is increasing its support for scientific endeavors, such as the $130 million it earmarked in September for construction of a cell-therapy plant in Denmark and a $200 million grant to establish the country's first full-scale quantum computer. 

"We can achieve a lot more now," Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, CEO of Novo Nordisk Foundation, told the Journal. "Size actually does matter." 

With an 11% stake, Lilly Endowment is Eli Lilly's biggest shareholder, although the foundation operates independently from Eli Lilly. The Novo Nordisk Foundation owns more than one-fourth of Novo Nordisk shares and majority voting control of the drugmaker, and is more intertwined with Novo Nordisk. 

Novo Nordisk makes Ozempic, Saxenda, Wegovy and Victoza; Eli Lilly makes Trulicity and Mounjaro. GLP-1 drugs, including Ozempic, Trulicity, Victoza and Mounjaro, are FDA approved to treat Type 2 diabetes; Saxenda and Wegovy are approved for weight loss. The drugs can cost patients more than $10,000 a year without insurance coverage. 

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