Novo pits prospect semaglutide against future rivals Victoza, Jardiance

Victoza

As the diabetes landscape grows ever more competitive, Novo Nordisk is betting big on its Victoza follow-up.

The Danish drugmaker is adding a pair of head-to-head studies to its development program for oral GLP-1 prospect semaglutide--one against Victoza and one against Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim’s Jardiance, Bernstein’s Ronny Gal wrote in a note to clients.

With pressure mounting on the company’s diabetes portfolio, Novo is hoping to see semaglutide make a splash--but to do that, it’ll have to win the favor of payers that have so far been unkind to Victoza. Earlier this month, Express Scripts announced that it would continue to bar the injectable med--along with two of Novo’s top-selling insulins.

The once-daily oral version of semaglutide will already have a convenience advantage over injectable Victoza, which may turn some heads in the PBM world. But if the newcomer can prove it’s also more effective than the older med, it could help build the case for avoiding Victoza’s formulary fate.

Right now, though, the biggest competitive threat isn’t necessarily coming from fellow GLP-1s, but from Jardiance and its SGLT-2 brethren. Last year, Lilly and BI’s med became the first to show it could reduce the combined risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death--and while Victoza also recently posted positive data on that front, analysts have reasoned that the results aren’t quite as strong as Jardiance’s.

Novo's once-weekly, injectable semaglutide, though, may be able to take back the spotlight if it can best Jardiance in a direct matchup--and it’s got a shot at doing so. Novo has already announced top-line data on the candidate, showing its own statistically significant decrease in CV risks.

Meanwhile, that once-weekly version has already knocked aside a couple major players in the diabetes space. At the American Diabetes Association’s annual meeting this summer, Novo fleshed out two studies that showed that the med was superior to AstraZeneca’s weekly GLP-1, Bydureon, as well as Merck DPP-4 stalwart Januvia.

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