The 40-week trial tested two dosages of Novo's once-weekly drug,
semaglutide, in addition to initial standard-of-care therapy
metformin, against Eli Lilly and Co's dulaglutide plus metformin.
Novo Nordisk said its drug was statistically significant in reducing
glucose levels and lowering body weight in about 1,200 patients
suffering from type 2 diabetes, when compared with dulaglutide.
Type 2 diabetes, closely linked to obesity, accounts for more than
90 percent of all diabetes cases.
The trial results could have been offset by an increase in cases of
diabetic retinopathy, which leads to vision loss, Guggenheim analyst
Tony Butler noted.
However, Novo Nordisk said on Wednesday the number of patients
reporting an adverse event of diabetic retinopathy was low and
comparable in both the arms.
"We are excited about the potential of semaglutide to set a new
standard for treatment of type 2 diabetes," the company said.
Semaglutide and dulaglutide belong to the GLP-1 category of drugs
which imitate an intestinal hormone that stimulates the production
and absorption of insulin.
With both the drugs offering significant benefits, pricing will
continue to be the most important factor in the diabetes space,
Jefferies analyst Heffrey Holford said in a client note.
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Lilly's dulaglutide, which is sold under the brand name Trulicity,
is one of the main growth drivers of the drugmaker's success.
Dulaglutide generated sales of $480 million in the second quarter,
accounting for about half of the company's new product sales.
"While we project that Lilly will retain its leadership position in
the once-weekly segment, Novo has made headway with its oral
formulation that could potentially shift the market dynamics in its
favor over the longer term," Barclays analysts said.
(Reporting by Divya Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)
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