Novo Nordisk competes against Lilly’s Diabetes therapy with Ozempic
Novo Nordisk has a lot riding on new diabetes therapy Ozempic, and says the once-weekly drug has made good headway in the US since its launch in February.
Widely considered a blockbuster-in-waiting, Ozempic (semaglutide) had sales of 264m krone ($41m) in the first half of the year, suggesting that the Danish drugmaker is making quick progress getting the drug included in US formularies as it sets off in pursuit of Lilly’s rival Trulicity (dulaglutide).
The GLP-1 agonist is going head-to-head in the marketplace with Trulicity, armed with phase III data, which Novo says showed its drug was superior in maintaining glucose control when added to background treatment with metformin. It’s got a long way to go, however, as Lilly’s drug is still romping away with first-half sales up 71% to almost $1.5bn.
Novo Nordisk is claiming a 14% share of the new-to-brand prescription market with Ozempic, and says “initial feedback from prescribers and payers is positive” in its first-half results statement, released this morning.
Overall, the group saw sales decline 5% to 54.3bn krone ($8.45bn), although it said that without adverse exchange rates it would have seen a 4% increase, with a rise in diabetes sales offset by fall in biopharma products such as haemophilia therapies and growth factors. It’s expecting stiffer pricing pressure on diabetes products in the US later this year, however, after ongoing negotiations with pharmacy benefit managers and managed care organisations in the US are concluded.
Insulin sales are already under pressure due to pricing and greater competition in the marketplace, but a bright point was Novo Nordisk’s new combination insulin/GLP-1 agonist product Xultophy (insulin degludec and liraglutide) which rocketed more than 150% in the first six months of the year to 720m krone.
Xultophy’s performance helped prop up the insulin category as it copes with a slide in sales of top seller Levemir (insulin detemir), which shrank by almost a quarter to 5.80bn krone on price reductions, competition from generic long-acting insulins including insulin glargine, and cannibalisation by Novo Nordisk’s newer insulin product Tresiba (insulin degludec).
Meanwhile, sales of Novo Nordisk’s top-selling drug Victoza (liraglutide) rose 2% to 11.7bn krone, mainly on volume growth in North America, while obesity spin-off brand Saxenda advanced 35% to 1.65bn kroner in the first six months of the year.
In an R&D update accompanying the financial results, the Danish company said that it was halting early-stage obesity candidates FGF-21 and G530L following a review of its obesity portfolio. The decision was not due to major safety issues, and Novo Nordisk says it will pursue development of FGF-21 in other chronic diseases.
The firm’s top R&D priority remains its once-daily oral formulation of Ozempic active ingredient semaglutide, which now has data from four of ten phase III trials in diabetes and obesity and is on course for regulatory filings. The company thinks oral semaglutide could be a game-changer for the GLP-1 class and increase the class’s share of the diabetes market.