Sanofi beats Novo to launch with diabetes combo Soliqua, kicking off the market-share grab

Sanofi Novo
Sanofi has launched diabetes combo med Soliqua four months ahead of when rival Novo Nordisk plans to roll out competitor Xultophy.

Sanofi and Novo Nordisk may have tied in the regulatory race for their basal insulin/GLP-1 combo diabetes products. But it’s Sanofi that’s reached the market first, and it’s got a four-month lead to work with.

The French drugmaker announced this week that it had rolled out Soliqua, a marriage of blockbuster insulin Lantus and GLP-1 med Adlyxin, at a list price of $127 for a 300-unit pen. Novo’s Xultophy, on the other hand—which, like Soliqua, won its regulatory green light on Nov. 21—won’t make it’s way to market until early May “following the training of our field sales force,” a company spokesman told FiercePharma.

A head start is exactly what Sanofi was looking for when it purchased an FDA priority review voucher for $245 million—only to wind up sharing an approval date with its rival. The diabetes landscape is a fiercely competitive one, and both drugmakers could use the new sales to offset serious pricing pressure.

Novo—which has a history of waiting to launch its new approvals—may be able to leverage its pricing to make up for the delay. Soliqua’s cost, which comes out to $19.90 per day, is “comparable to other GLP-1 therapies and less expensive than alternative combination regimens,” Rachele Berria, head of Sanofi’s diabetes medical unit, told FiercePharma in an email interview. But Novo has said it’s planning to roll out Xultophy at a list price that's 20% lower than the combined cost of its component meds—GLP-1 med Victoza and basal insulin Tresiba—and negotiate payer discounts from there.

Sanofi, in the meantime, will be doing everything it can to build up its market position, including offering up Soliqua at $0 co-pay for eligible, commercially-insured patients, Berria said. Sanofi will also sport a “tailored support program,” known as Soliqua 100/33 COACH, to patients on the med; those efforts will come on top of the Sanofi Patient Connection assistance program the company already offers, which includes reimbursement help and connections to other resources, such as transportation and nutritional supplements.

Meanwhile, the combo market isn’t the only arena where Sanofi and Novo are duking it out. As of last month, when Sanofi sued its Danish nemesis, they’re also involved in a legal squabble over marketing materials for Tresiba. The materials in question make false claims about Lantus and follow-up Toujeo, the French pharma giant alleges.