Can Lilly hotshot Jardiance steam ahead if SGLT2s slow down?


Eli Lilly’s diabetes med Jardiance has seen a boost since it showed last year that it could lower cardiovascular risks. But its expansion depends on the growth in the SGLT2 class--and whether Jardiance can keep up its current pace remains to be seen.

Overall growth of the class will be “probably the most significant aspect to our overall growth” for Jardiance, the Indianapolis drugmaker’s diabetes president, Enrique Conterno, told investors on last week’s Q1 conference call. But with that in mind, there’s “one piece that we have a watch-out for,” he cautioned.

Despite total prescriptions growing about 46% so far for the year, new patient growth is “basically in single digits,” he said. And that’s reminiscent of last year, when growth in the SGLT2 category began to slow down--only to be revived by Lilly’s heart-helping data.

Of course, those data were pretty significant: With them, Jardiance became the first diabetes med to show it could reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and CV death in high-risk Type 2 patients. Lilly and partner Boehringer Ingelheim expect the med to get a boost when regulators approve label changes and medical bodies--such as the American Diabetes Association--update their treatment guidelines accordingly.

"Overall I think we have to wait and see," Conterno said of the SGLT2 market clip, noting that “it’s critical that we see both” of those events.

But while Jardiance may have been the first to pare down CV risks, it’s no longer the only med to do so. Novo Nordisk recently announced that its GLP-1 star, Victoza, achieved that feat in trials, and it plans to unveil the specifics this summer.

Luckily for Lilly, though, it has a horse in the GLP-1 race, too--and that’s Trulicity, a med that led Lilly’s new products in Q1. With commercial and Medicare Part D access now topping 70%, the treatment has so far grabbed a 17% share of the GLP-1 market, CFO Derica Rice said on the call.

And that class? It doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. It continued to grow by more than 30% in Q1, Rice pointed out, telling investors that “we see continued upside from here.”

“We view in a positive way the CV result” from Victoza’s trial, Conterno said. “It’s going to be a huge catalyst for the overall GLP-1 class,” he said--and it gives the company hope that its own CV trial for Trulicity will come out positively, too.

- see Lilly's call transcript