Look out, Lantus: Novo's new insulin gets CHMP backing

The day Sanofi has dreaded is coming. Novo Nordisk ($NVO) won European backing for its new insulin, Tresiba, the drug that could become Lantus' nemesis. If Tresiba wins final European Medicines Agency approval, then Sanofi ($SNY) will be battling fiercely for market share.

And right now, Lantus' share is enormous. It dominates the long-acting insulin market, delivering billions to the French drugmaker's coffers. In fact, it brought in about $5.1 billion for 2011, and it's grown 17% so far this year, with a tad more than $3 billion in first-half sales. Lantus is the golden egg that Sanofi will fight like a mother dragon to protect.

But Novo has high expectations for Tresiba, whose generic name is insulin degludec. As Natixis Securities analysts recently wrote (as quoted by Bloomberg), "This new insulin is key for future growth" at the company. Peak sales are estimated at $3.5 billion by 2025.

On the bright side for Sanofi, Europe isn't its biggest market for Lantus. Sales in Western Europe amounted to €383 million ($499.2 million) for the first half of 2012, only slightly more than its take in emerging markets (€379 million) and just over a quarter of its U.S. sales €1.44 billion. And regulators in the U.S. recently put off their decision on degludec, giving Lantus a reprieve till early next year, at least.

- see the release from the EMA
- check out Novo's announcement
- read the Bloomberg story

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