As diabetes heats up, Lilly looks for Trulicity edge with positive SGLT2 combo data

Eli Lilly's Trulicity competes against Novo Nordisk heavyweights Victoza and Ozempic in the GLP-1 category. (Eli Lilly)

Eli Lilly has some formidable competition coming in the GLP-1 diabetes class, so it’s wasting no time looking for growth avenues for contender Trulicity.

And if new data are any indication, it may have just found one.

On Monday, the Indianapolis drugmaker said a phase 3b study showed that adding Trulicity to treatment with an SGLT2 inhibitor significantly lowered blood sugar, as measured by A1C levels. Beyond that, significantly more people receiving Trulicity alongside their SGLT2s reached target A1C levels of less than 7%.

The results suggest “that the combination of once-weekly Trulicity and an SGLT-2 inhibitor shows significant promise in helping more people with type 2 diabetes reach their treatment goals,” lead study investigator Bernhard Ludvik said in a statement.

They also suggest a way for Lilly to pick up an edge on key rival Novo Nordisk. The Danish drugmaker recently rolled out GLP-1 Ozempic, which will join its blockbuster drug Victoza in battling it out with Trulicity.

RELATED: Bring on Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide, Eli Lilly says. We’re ready

And last week, Novo touted data from a phase 3 study of oral semaglutide, another GLP-1 that could give Trulicity a run for its money. It would be the first oral drug in the class.

However, Novo doesn’t have an approved SGLT2. Lilly does—and it's not just any SGLT2, either; Jardiance, the drug it shares with Boehringer Ingelheim, in 2015 became the first diabetes therapy to show it could improve cardiovascular outcomes, making waves in the diabetes space.

That doesn’t mean Lilly won’t have competition if it can win a future GLP-1/SGLT-2 combo approval. Back in September of 2016, AstraZeneca, for one, trumpeted its own positive results from a trial marrying its GLP-1 Bydureon with Jardiance’s SGLT2 rival Farxiga.