Boehringer sees turbocharged diabetes unit driving future growth

When Boehringer Ingelheim announced its 2015 financial results last week, it spotlighted growth in multiple therapeutic areas. But diabetes, recently bolstered by Jardiance and its cardiovascular risk-lowering data, stole the show.

The German pharma recorded 49% growth for the diabetes business in currency-adjusted terms, with its sales for the unit rising to €1.1 billion ($1.24 billion). The way execs see it, their portfolio--consisting of 6 meds the company shares with partner Eli Lilly ($LLY)--has now “established itself as a long-term growth driver” that Boehringer expects will keep revenues flowing.

The main reason: Jardiance, which last year became the first diabetes med to cut the combined risk of heart attack, stroke and CV-related death in high-risk Type 2 patients. The feat--which company chairman Andreas Barner in a speech to investors called a medical breakthrough akin to the launch of statins in lowering cholesterol--has been bolstering the med’s market share since results of the study rolled out last September, although execs haven’t yet said how much.

And Jardiance still has plenty of room to grow. For one, its makers expect to see a boost when the FDA approves the addition of the CV study data to the drug’s label; the agency accepted the drugmakers’ sNDA in January, meaning sales reps could get the chance to boast about Jardiance’s CV benefit before the year is out.

And the pair recently announced two new outcomes trials evaluating the effect of Jardiance as a treatment for chronic heart failure, and success there could bring the drug into an entirely different--and substantial--market.

In the ultracompetitive diabetes arena, though, no product is without its rivals. In addition to a couple of SGLT2 brethren--which are still awaiting results from their own CV outcomes trials--Jardiance is up against heavyweights from other drug classes. And last month, Novo Nordisk’s ($NVO) Victoza, a GLP-1 med, bared its teeth, posting its own CV benefit. Details on just how much Victoza whittled down heart risks for patients won’t be unveiled until June’s American Diabetes Association annual meeting.

- read Barner's remarks (PDF)

Special Report: The top 10 best-selling diabetes drugs of 2013

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