Report: Novo, Sanofi and Merck dominate global diabetes market

It's a good time to be a diabetes drugmaker. The top 10 companies producing diabetes meds raked in about $62 billion in global sales in 2014, up 5.1% from the previous year.

This is according to a report from data analytics firm GlobalData which says Novo Nordisk ($NVO), Sanofi ($SNY) and Merck ($MRK) lead the pack, posting solid gains for their products as they compete for a piece of a rapidly growing market.

Novo scored the number one spot on GlobalData's list of top 10 diabetes companies by global sales, raking in $11.3 billion for its diabetes meds in 2014. The company relies on its GLP-1 powerhouse, Victoza (liraglutide) and its basal insulin Levemir to buoy sales, but also has a few new products in its arsenal that could keep its ship afloat. Tresiba, a new basal insulin, has already hit the market in Europe. And Ryzodeg, a combination of Tresiba and Novo's insulin apart NovoLog, launched in Mexico last year.

Novo is also hard at work on a new oral diabetes drug, dubbed OG217SC, an oral version of its injected, long-acting med, semaglutide. New products in the pipeline and strong sales for its existing diabetes meds could move the company closer to its goal of doubling sales in the next 10 years. Novo CEO Kåre Schultz last year said by 2020, 40 million diabetes patients will be using Novo's products, pushing revenues up by at least 10% a year.

Sanofi snagged the second spot on the list with $10.7 billion in sales, even as its blockbuster Lantus delivers less than stellar numbers for the drugmaker. The basal insulin brought in €1.6 billion in sales in Q1, down 5% globally and down 13% in the U.S. in light of pricing pressure. But newcomers Lyxumia, Toujeo and inhalable insulin Afrezza also chipped in sales, giving the company a boost as it readies itself for biosimilar competition to Lantus.

Merck grabbed third place in GlobalData's rankings, bringing in $7.4 billion in sales last year--a 0.7% dip from 2013. The company counts on its Januvia franchise to contribute sales, but the company faces mounting generic competition for Januvia and combo pill Janumet. Still, Merck continues to charge ahead with its DPP-4 meds, recently announcing that Januvia passed a key heart safety test in a trial. And the positive trial news could be enough to boost 2020 sales of Januvia and Janumet by up to 10%, Bernstein & Co. analyst Tim Anderson said at the time.

Pfizer ($PFE) and Eli Lilly ($LLY) round out the top 5, with Pfizer snagging $7.3 billion in global diabetes sales and Lilly bringing in about $4.5 billion in sales. Pfizer is working hard to expand its footprint in the field since striking a deal with Merck in 2013 to co-develop a new drug for patients with type 2 diabetes. Meanwhile, Lilly is relying on its fast-acting insulin, Humalog, to bolster sales at it waits for newcomer Trulicity to kick it into gear. New combo med Glyxambi, which Lilly markets with Boehringer, and another combo drug, Synjardy, could also bolster the company's sales in the year to come.

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