ADA: Lilly's Trulicity tops Ozempic at keeping patients compliant, real-world data show

Eli Lilly is fighting hard to protect Trulicity's share against Novo Nordisk’s newest offerings in the GLP-1 class, and it’s breaking out real-world data to support its case.

A new real-world analysis, presented Saturday at the American Diabetes Association’s virtual annual meeting, showed that at the six-month mark, patients were doing a better job sticking to Trulicity than they were to once-weekly rivals Ozempic from Novo and Bydureon BCise from AstraZeneca.

Against Ozempic—considered the bigger threat to Trulicity’s share—the Lilly drug posted 59.7% adherence versus 42.7% for Novo’s contender, meaning a larger proportion of Trulicity patients kept up with their prescribed doses and dosing intervals. Patients also stayed on treatment as directed for longer, averaging 143.6 days on Trulicity and 129.9 days for Ozempic.

RELATED: Novo's next-gen GLP-1 Ozempic smashes blockbuster barrier amid ramp-up for Rybelsus rollout

And at six months, 30.8% of Trulicity patients had quit treatment, beating out Ozempic, which lost 40.8% of patients to discontinuation over the same time frame.

The analysis looked at U.S. claims data for Type 2 diabetes patients starting weekly injectable treatment with the three drugs and balanced characteristics including age, gender and comorbidities.

The results are “especially meaningful because adherence and persistence can be associated with better clinical outcomes, including blood glucose control, fewer complications and lower healthcare costs,” Leonard Glass, M.D., Lilly's vice president of medical affairs, said in an email interview.

“The data add to the growing body of evidence to support Trulicity’s continued efficacy and should be considered by physicians when prescribing medicines to people with diabetes,” he added.

Ozempic, backed by a mountain of efficacy and weight-loss data, has taken the market by storm since its 2018 debut. It cruised past the blockbuster barrier last year, raking in $1.65 billion in global sales and grabbing 57% of new-to-brand U.S. market share in the GLP-1 class—“significantly ahead” of the competition, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said in February.

But despite the company on the market, Trulicity, too, had a big 2019, swelling sales by 29% to reach $4.13 billion.

RELATED: Novo Nordisk wins FDA green light for 'holy grail' diabetes drug Rybelsus

Of course, Ozempic isn’t the only new Novo GLP-1 Trulicity has to contend with. Late last September, the Danish drugmaker won a green light for its daily oral GLP-1, Rybelsus, a drug the company’s chief scientific officer compared to “a holy grail.” And it remains to be seen whether that oral formulation can keep patients more compliant than any injectable therapy can; perhaps not surprisingly, it’s a study Glass said Lilly isn’t planning to conduct.

That said, the Indianapolis drugmaker isn’t worried about the Novo newcomer stifling Trulicity’s expansion.

“Even with the launch of Rybelsus, we believe there is a lot of room for injectable GLP-1 growth, with only one out of every three first injectables currently being a GLP,” he wrote, adding that, in general, physicians considering GLP-1 therapies earlier in treatment is a good thing for the class as a whole.