Novo Nordisk A/S’s Diabetes Drug Beats Out Eli Lilly’s Trulicity in Phase III Trials

Published: Aug 17, 2017

Novo Nordisk A/S’s Diabetes Drug Beats Out Eli Lilly’s Trulicity in Phase III Trials August 17, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Bagsvaerd, Denmark – Novo Nordisk announced positive results from its SUSTAIN 7 Phase III clinical trial, comparing its once-weekly semaglutide against Eli Lilly’s Trulicity (dulaglutide) for type 2 diabetes.

Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide showed a better decrease of HbA1c than Trulicity, although it also showed a greater likelihood of diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to vision loss. The company indicates, however, that the number of patients reporting retinopathy was low and comparable to both arms of the trial.

About 69 percent of patients receiving 0.5 mg of semaglutide reached the treatment goal compared to 52 percent of patients receiving 0.75 mg of Trulicity. On a higher 1.0 mg dose of semaglutide, 79 percent hit the treatment goal and on 1.5 mg of Trulicity, 68 percent hit the treatment goal. The treatment goal was the American Diabetes Association (ADA) target of HbA1c below or equal to 7 percent.

Perhaps an even bigger boost for semaglutide is it proved to be almost twice as effective in encouraging weight loss than Trulicity did. Patients receiving semaglutide lost an average 6.5 kilograms of weight compared to 3.0 kilograms on Trulicity. That is 14.33 pounds compared to 6.6 pounds. Seeking Alpha, “The percentages of patients who lost at least 5 percent of their body weight in the two doses of semaglutide were 44 percent and 63 percent, respectively, compared to 30 percent of 1.5 mg of dulaglutide.”

Novo Nordisk has the drug under review at seven different jurisdictions, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and the Japanese Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency.

John Carroll, writing Endpoints News says, “Lilly execs won’t like the competition, if it wins approval. The drug was its top-performing new drug in 2016, earning $337 million. Novo, meanwhile, has proven to be a tough competitor in the massive diabetes market, but has also been feeling the pain of pricing pressure that has afflicted all the big players, including Sanofi (SNY).”

Both drugs are in the GLP-1 category. These drugs imitate LINK a hormone in the intestine that stimulates the production and absorption of insulin.

Heffrey Holford, an analyst with Jefferies, notes that both drugs offer significant benefits, but pricing will likely remain the most important factor. Trulicity brought in $480 million in this year’s second quarter.

Analysts with Barclays wrote, “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.”

“The superior glucose control and weight loss achieved with semaglutide compared to dulaglutide in this trial reinforces the unprecedented results observed in the entire SUSTAIN programme,” said Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, Novo Nordisk’s executive vice president and chief science officer, in a statement. “We are excited about the potential of semaglutide to set a new standard for treatment of type 2 diabetes.”

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