Novo Nordisk buoyed by Victoza cardiovascular results

Victoza has just given Novo Nordisk a boost, with new data showing it can cut the risk of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular death in type 2 diabetes patients.

The five-year LEADER study of 9,000 adults with type 2 diabetes found GLP-1 drug Victoza helped cut the risk of cardiovascular events.

Unveiled on Friday, the results will help the once-daily injectable Victoza compete in the crowded type 2 diabetes market, which is currently dominated by oral treatments.

Last year, Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim’s SGLT2 drug Jardiance became the first diabetes drug to prove it could cut cardiovascular risk, and the companies are now close to adding the claim to its label.

Their EMPA-REG study of 7,000 showed the drug could cut CV events by 14% in high-risk type 2 diabetes patients, a formidable claim, which many believe could see it become a market leader.

Now Novo is aiming to surpass this claim, but is holding back detailed results from its trial until June’s American Diabetes Association conference.

“People with type 2 diabetes generally have a higher risk of experiencing major adverse cardiovascular events. That’s why we are very excited about the results from LEADER, which showed that Victoza, in addition to helping people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar levels, also reduces their risk of major adverse cardiovascular events,” said Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, executive vice president and chief science officer of Novo Nordisk.

Thomsen added that LEADER is the largest and longest clinical trial his firm has ever conducted, and said it looked forward to sharing the detailed results with the medical community and submitting the data to regulators.

Victoza reached sales of 18 billion Danish kroner ($2.6 billion) in 2015, up 34%. However diabetes drugs are under pricing pressure in the US, and discounts are dampening sales growth.

Merck’s oral treatment Januvia is currently the type 2 diabetes market leader and is from another class, the oral DPP-IV inhibitors. It earned sales of $6 billion in 2015, which were flat compared to the previous year.

Some drugs in the DPP-IV class have been linked with increased risk of heart failure, but a study of Januvia gave it a clean bill of health. Nevertheless, Merck has no studies which show a positive CV effect for the drug, which means Victoza and Jardiance could eventually overtake it.

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