ADA trials boost Januvia, question costly meds

Avandia wasn't the only headline-maker at the American Diabetes Association's confab over the weekend. Docs at the meeting were virtually rolling in new diabetes-drug data. Some of the news was sure to cheer certain drugmakers; other studies weren't so sales-boosting. Here's a roundup.

  • Merck's Januvia boosted the effectiveness of diabetes-drug therapy when added to a regimen of insulin or Actos, the Takeda Pharmaceutical drug. Blood-sugar control was better for patients on combo therapy, the study found. Merck has asked the FDA to approve Januvia as an add-on treatment for patients already using insulin. Merck's diabetes franchise has been one of the bright spots in the company's quarterly reports.

  • Both Avandia (GlaxoSmithKline) and Actos (Takeda), which carry a known risk of heart failure, also appear to increase patients' risk of bone fractures by 43 percent. Avandia was already linked to the fracture risk, but this new trial showed an equal risk for Actos. And women on the drugs are twice as likely to suffer fractures as men are, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • Aggressive use of expensive diabetes drugs and cardiovascular stents did no better than cheaper treatments at preventing deaths, heart attacks or strokes in a large study of diabetics with heart disease. The NIH-funded research (several drugmakers chipped in, too) is sure to fuel more debate over a.) costly diabetes meds and b.) the use--or overuse, depending upon your point of view--of stents. And it's an illustration of the sort of "comparative effectiveness" research newly funded by Congress.

  • Novo Nordisk's experimental diabetes shot liraglutide worked better than a competing generic at lowering blood sugar and triggering weight loss after two years of treatment, a company-sponsored study showed. Hypoglycemia was also less likely on the new drug, with weight loss more likely.

  • The once-weekly version of Eli Lilly and Amylin Pharmaceuticals drug Byetta (exanatide) worked better than Takeda's Actos and Merck's Januvia in one study, which used various ADA goals as benchmarks. As you know, the long-acting drug is a make-or-break for Amylin and a potential revenue boost for Lilly.

Any big news we missed? Let us know in the comments.

- get more on Januvia from Bloomberg
- read the fracture story from the WSJ
- check out the WSJ article on the comparative study
- see the Novo Nordisk news from Bloomberg
- find the once-weekly exanatide piece from Reuters