AstraZeneca's Bydureon cleared a heart safety test, but didn't cut risks. Can it still vie with Novo?

AstraZeneca's Bydureon failed to show it could significantly cut the combined risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death.

AstraZeneca finally has some cardiovascular outcomes data it can tout in favor of one of its top diabetes contenders. But the new results still don’t measure up to data posted by its competitors.

The British drugmaker announced Tuesday that its once-weekly GLP-1 med Bydureon didn’t worsen the combined risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death in an outcomes study required by regulators.

In fact, the company said, when compared with placebo, researchers recorded fewer CV events in the study’s Bydureon arm, but the difference wasn’t statistically significant.

On the one hand, it’s good news for AZ; the company can now proclaim Bydureon safe on the CV front. The trial, dubbed Exscel, boasted “the largest and most inclusive patient population of any CV outcomes trial” to date in the GLP-1 world, the company said, featuring more than 14,000 patients from 35 countries.

RELATED: Novo Nordisk stokes GLP-1 hopes as weekly semaglutide slashes heart risks by 26%

But these days, diabetes drugs are going beyond simply passing the CV safety litmus test. They’re improving CV outcomes, too: Novo Nordisk last summer showed that its GLP-1 product, Victoza—a head-to-head rival for Bydureon—could cut the risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death together by 13%.

And in September, it rolled out data showing its candidate GLP-1 med, semaglutide, could do even better. That product, for which Novo is expecting an approval this year, slashed the risk of CV problems by 26%, the Danish drugmaker said, but in a smaller study that needs follow-up.

RELATED: Sanofi's diabetes hopeful Lyxumia gets a raft of good safety grades

Bydureon’s showing wasn’t the first to spoil the notion of a so-called “class effect” in GLP-1, either. Back in 2015, Sanofi’s Lyxumia failed to top placebo on the CV front, though, like Bydureon, it didn’t fall short of it, either.

Outside of the GLP-1 class, AstraZeneca is still hoping that it can turn up similar results to its heart-helping rivals. It’s currently working its way through an outcomes study with SGLT2 player Farxiga, which will show whether the AZ med can match rival Jardiance from Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim at bettering CV outcomes.