Sanofi exec: We'll make our diabetes goals

Despite fears of cancer risks, despite abundant--and growing--competition, Lantus can power Sanofi-Aventis to its ambitious goals for growth in the diabetes arena. That's what the company's diabetes chief, Pierre Chancel, tells Bloomberg, anyway. Chancel says Lantus will continue to lead competitors, he says, even as longer-acting versions of insulin hit the market. "To beat Lantus, a product needs to show superiority in more than one parameter," he told the news service. "We're still not seeing that."

But analysts aren't so sure. Novo Nordisk's experimental drug Degludec, a longer-acting insulin analogue, could pose a problem, Sanford C. Bernstein analysts recently wrote in a note to investors. "Degludec should provide tougher competition for Lantus," Jack Scannell and Tim Anderson wrote (as quoted by Bloomberg). Investors are a bit wary, too; the company's stock suffered last week after a new study raised new questions about a potential link between Lantus and increased risk of cancer.

And then there's Victoza, Novo Nordisk's new diabetes drug. It's true that Sanofi is working on a direct competitor to the Novo drug, a GLP-1 agonist. And Chancel says the combination of this experimental med, lixisenatide, with Lantus has "a high probability of being very attractive." But Victoza does have the first-to-market advantage, and Novo is pushing hard to make it a success.

Sanofi has another route to higher diabetes-market sales, however. The company has been beefing up its diabetes offerings with a move into devices, namely blood glucose meters to be developed with AgaMatrix. "Up until now you had companies that were big insulin makers, and others that were big device makers, but you didn't have one company uniting the two," Chancel said. "Sanofi will offer it all."

- read the Bloomberg analysis