Novo Nordisk targets Mexico for early obesity drug launch

Novo Nordisk ($NVO) has its sights set on Mexico. The Danish drugmaker has put that country next on its list to debut liraglutide in its new guise as a weight-loss drug.

Sold for diabetes under the Victoza brand name, liraglutide has been racking up data for use against obesity. The company has already filed for FDA approval, aiming for a launch later this year.

Aiming for the U.S. first is common enough among drugmakers, because of its status as the world's largest pharma market. But Mexico isn't often high on the list. In this case, it's the prevalence of obesity in the country that's driving the early push there.

As The Wall Street Journal notes, 7 in 10 Mexican adults are overweight, and an estimated 10 million have diabetes. That's about 9% of the country's population, making it the highest percentage in any country with at least 100 million residents, the WSJ says.

Novo Nordisk is hoping to win approval in Mexico within a year, the company's SVP for international operations, Mike Doustdar, told the WSJ . "I'm very encouraged that this drug will come to many markets, including Mexico," Doustdar said.

The company has been leaning on Victoza for growth lately, particularly after its brand-new diabetes treatment, Tresiba, got the heave-ho from the FDA last year. As Novo Nordisk generates new safety data for another try on Tresiba at FDA, it's hoping to reap new sales from its fast-growing synthetic insulins and Victoza.

An obesity approval for liraglutide could help, despite the fact that it would be facing two new weight-loss drugs. Given their experience with Victoza, primary care doctors might be more comfortable prescribing liraglutide for weight loss, rather than the newer products, which they have used less. Those drugs--Qsymia from Vivus ($VVUS), and Belviq, marketed by Eisai and Arena Pharmaceuticals ($ARNA)--are both still aiming for liftoff after going on sale last year.

- read the WSJ piece (sub. req.)

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