Novo Nordisk Fights Threat From Diabetes Pills With New Study

  • Novo says Victoza injection lowers blood sugar more than pills
  • Danish drugmaker cites new meta-analysis of earlier studies

Novo Nordisk A/S, whose injected diabetes therapies are under pressure from pills that may delay the use of its products, said a new analysis shows its six-year-old medicine Victoza helps patients control their blood-sugar levels better than tablets.

The study, which aggregates 17 earlier clinical trials in a type of research called meta-analysis, shows the Novo injection reduced a measure of blood sugar known as HbA1c more than Eli Lilly & Co.’s Jardiance, Johnson & Johnson’s Invokana and AstraZeneca Plc’s Farxiga, the Bagsvaerd, Denmark-based company said in a statement. The findings were presented at the World Diabetes Congress in Vancouver.

Diabetics, whose pancreas fails to produce enough insulin to process the sugar they consume, must take drugs to keep sugar from pooling in their blood. The higher the HbA1c level, the greater the risk of developing complications, according to the Mayo Clinic. Victoza belongs to a class of drugs that stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin. The three pills are known as SGLT2 inhibitors. They block the kidneys from routing sugar taken from the blood back into the body so that it’s excreted in the urine instead.

The new study comes as oral drugs pose a growing threat to injected diabetes medicines. Lilly in September revealed unprecedented results showing Jardiance reduced the risk of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular deaths in diabetics with a high risk of heart problems. Victoza, which generated about $2.4 billion last year, is now typically prescribed as a third or fourth option when tablets fail.

Novo is conducting its own trial, dubbed Leader, on cardiovascular outcomes with Victoza, and results may be announced as early as in the first quarter next year, according to Chief Scientific Officer Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen.

Jardiance combined with other diabetes pills in the DPP4 class of drugs, such as Lilly’s Tradjenta, come close to the effectiveness of Victoza. That could pose a threat by delaying the use of Victoza, according to Sam Fazeli, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence in London.

Meanwhile, Novo is preparing to start a late-stage testing program of an oral version of semaglutide, a GLP-1 medicine like Victoza, in the first quarter of next year.

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