Sanofi launches fast-acting, high-concentration insulin med Toujeo in the U.K.

Toujeo in a SoloStar insulin pen--Courtesy of Sanofi

A longer-acting version of the world's best-selling diabetes drug is now available in the U.K. Sanofi ($SNY) announced the availability of the long-acting basal insulin med Toujeo in the country. Containing 300 units of insulin glargine per milliliter, the drug is a three times more concentrated reformulation of the company's blockbuster Lantus, which had revenues of about $7 billion last year.

Sanofi said Toujeo produced a more stable and prolonged glucose-lowering effect than Lantus during its clinical trials, and the effect lasted longer than 24 hours. That's because, when injected subcutaneously, Toujeo forms a compact subcutaneous depot with reduced surface area, according to Sanofi's release.

During the trials, both insulins achieved a similar reduction of blood glucose. Toujeo was associated with a lower rate of confirmed hypoglycemia among Type 2 diabetes patients but achieved a similar rate of hypoglycemia among Type 1 patients.

Toujeo is not bioequivalent to Lantus, meaning the two meds are not interchangeable, Sanofi says. Switching between the insulins results in an increased risk of hypoglycemia, especially in the first week.

Both therapies require the same subcutaneous administration method and are delivered via the SoloStar disposable insulin pen.

Toujeo was approved in February 2015 by the European Medicines Agency and the FDA. Other global agencies are reviewing the medicine, Sanofi said.

"This new basal insulin is an additional treatment option for doctors to help manage patients who are not currently able to reach optimal glycemic control," said Melanie Davies, professor of diabetes medicine at the University of Leicester, in a statement. "Hypoglycemia is one of the most frequent adverse events experienced by people treated with insulin and fear of these events can prevent some patients administering appropriate insulin doses and can even lead to discontinuation of treatment. The consequence may be poor blood glucose control and an increased risk of long-term complications."

A Sanofi spokeswoman told pharma news website PMLiVE that it has priced Toujeo at the same level as Lantus so that it does not affect the budget of the U.K.'s National Health Service. The agency spent £73 million ($113 million) on Lantus in 2014, according to a government report.

Toujeo had sales of €20 million ($22 million) in the first half of the year. It faces competition from up-and-coming biosimilars, as well as Novo Nordisk's ($NVO) insulin med Levemir.

- read the release
- here's PMLiVE's take