Novo's Victoza beats Merck's Januvia in company-funded study

Novo Nordisk scored a win in a trial pitting its new Victoza treatment for diabetes against Merck's Januvia pill. Novo's drug reduced blood sugar levels more than Januvia did in Type 2 diabetes patients who didn't respond well to metformin, the Lancet-published study found. These results follow an earlier study in which Victoza controlled blood sugar better than rival Eli Lilly/Amylin drug Byetta.

The latest data will add to Novo's marketing arsenal as it follows through on the Victoza launch. Chief Scientific Officer Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen tells Reuters that demand for Victoza has measured up to Novo's own "optimistic" expectations. "We have overtaken Byetta in several European markets in the first nine months post launch," Thomsen points out, "and in the U.S. we are already seeing, nine weeks into the launch, a rather sizeable uptake."

Here are some specifics on the new research. The 1.8-mg dose of Victoza lowered the so-called "A1c" measure of blood glucose levels by 1.5 percentage points, compared with Januvia's 0.9 percentage points. A lower Victoza dose of 1.2-mg cut A1c by 1.2 points. Researcher Richard Pratley of the University of Vermont calls the difference "clinically relevant," adding that Victoza patients lost more weight during the study.

In pushing Victoza over Januvia, Novo is up against the fact that Merck's drug comes in pill form, whereas Victoza has to be injected. And Januvia also caused fewer gastrointestinal side effects than Victoza did in the new study. But expect Novo to push quite hard: Victoza is a big-deal new drug for them, one that analysts have pegged as a new blockbuster.

- see the release from Novo
- read the Reuters piece