Novo upbeat on Tresiba in Japan in Q1; China drags


Novo Nordisk ($NVO) was upbeat on Tresiba in Japan in the first quarter as the firm reorganized its geographic reporting lines to keep the U.S. separate while bringing Canada to a Pacific group that includes Japan, Korea and Oceania--while Greater China remains distinct.

In that breakup, CEO Lars Rebien Sorensen said on the April 29 earnings call that sales in the U.S. accounted for 64% followed by international operations with 23%--both measured in local currencies.

Sorensen highlighted that the diabetes drug Tresiba (insulin degludec) "contributed notably to growth."

"Sales in Pacific grew 7% in both local currencies and Danish kroner. Growth in Pacific is driven by [Type II diabetes therapy] Victoza, with a positive impact of the continued expansion of the GLP-1 market in Japan and Canada as well as a strong Tresiba uptake in Japan. The growth is partially offset by declining overall insulin market volumes in Japan," he said of the product now launched in 43 countries.

"In Japan, where Tresiba was launched in March 2013 with the same level of reimbursement as insulin glargine U100, its share of the basal market has grown steadily," he said. "As a result, Tresiba now has captured 34% of the basal insulin market measured by value in Japan."

Japan is the third-largest market for Novo behind the U.S. and China.

Jakob Riis, EVP for China, Pacific and marketing, said that Japan is now a model for how U.S. patients may move to basal insulins--especially after Bangalore-based Biocon in March launched a new biosimilar of Sanofi's ($SNY) big-selling Lantus (insulin glargine).

"Japan, what we've seen is a fairly big dent into the Lantus franchise from biosimilar glargine, but at the same time we've seen an uninterrupted continuous penetration of Tresiba," he said. "So it confirms what we also discussed before. So far, what we see is that it's within the molecule and there are no wider implications of biosimilar competition beyond the actual molecule it is substituting."

However, Sorensen said that China sales grew 3% in local currencies and 1% in Danish kroner for a "modest" result as human insulin sales are hit harder by "intensified local competition."

The competition is acute with approval for Tresiba in China potentially years out, the company said. 

- here's the Novo Nordisk release