Who loses most in Lilly vs. Novo diabetes study? AstraZeneca

Novo Nordisk's Victoza--FiercePharma file photo

Eli Lilly is one step closer to launching its promising new diabetes drug dulaglutide--and one step closer to putting a crimp in Novo Nordisk's big-selling rival, Victoza. Lilly unveiled top-line results from a head-to-head trial between its once-weekly Type 2 diabetes remedy and the once-daily Victoza (liraglutide). And dulaglutide stood its own.

Dulaglutide didn't prove superior to Victoza, which would have been ideal for Lilly ($LLY), if not so much for Novo Nordisk ($NVO). Few expected that, anyway. But by showing itself equal to the task, and with a convenient weekly dosing schedule, dulaglutide could carve market share away from Victoza, which is one of Novo Nordisk's growth mainstays. The drug most threatened by the new data isn't Victoza, however. It's Bydureon, AstraZeneca's ($AZN) once-weekly version of exanatide, which went up against Victoza in a similar head-to-head trial, and lost.

All three drugs are GLP-1 agonists, and work by stimulating insulin production. Till now, Victoza has dominated the category, with about two-thirds share, according to Mark Schoenebaum, an analyst at ISI Group. Schoenebaum estimates the total market for that class at about $3 billion at present, and $4 billion to $5 billion in a few years.

Diabetes is a huge and--unfortunately for public health--fast-growing market. But diabetes drugmakers want to grow faster than the market, and that means building and protecting share. Schoenebaum figures that dulaglutide's once-weekly dosing could help it conquer about one-third of the market, which would leave Victoza fighting off AstraZeneca's Byetta and Bydureon to hang onto as much of its share as possible. Read more from FiercePharmaMarketing>>