Victoza launch boosts Novo sales, profits

Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO) bucked the current pharma trend of lowering 2010 and profits forecasts. The Danish drugmaker instead raised its predictions for 2010 performance--for the second time so far this year. The impetus: A successful launch of its new diabetes treatment Victoza.

The upgraded forecast comes as Novo reports strong first-quarter results. Net income for the quarter grew 23 percent to 3.32 billion kroner, or $596 million, topping analyst estimates. Now, the company now expects revenues to grow 10 percent to 13 percent, and operating profit could grow by 16 percent.

In fact, amidst all the forecast-cutting over healthcare reform, Novo managed to grow revenue faster in North America than in its other regions. Some 68 percent of first-quarter sales growth came from North America, the company said in a statement.

Again, Victoza's the culprit. "Victoza sales are better than expected, and the impact of the U.S. healthcare reform looks a little more benign," Jyske Bank analyst Frank Andersen told Bloomberg. In fact, Victoza sales hit 370 million kroner, and are expected to reach 1.14 billion kroner this year, or $204 million.

Unfortunately, in this case, there's also a loser; Victoza probably grabbed U.S. market share from Eli Lilly and Amylin's diabetes drug Byetta; both drugs belong to the GLP-1 class of diabetes meds. Novo CFO Jesper Brandgaard told the news service that half the diabetes patients now using a GLP-1 treatment are on Victoza, and that some 15 to 20 percent of Victoza patients have switched from Byetta. And Byetta sales for the first quarter did fall for Eli Lilly, by 5 percent.

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