ViewPoints: Novo Nordisk looks to play catch up in once-weekly GLP-1 market

Novo Nordisk has chosen to progress semaglutide – its experimental once-weekly GLP-1 inhibitor - into Phase III trials. See Novo Nordisk chooses to move diabetes drug semaglutide into Phase III development. That the company completed mid-stage trials for the product two years ago, and has spent the intervening period assessing semaglutide versus a once-weekly version of its market leading GLP product Victoza, will ensure that it remains a closely watched development.

Insight, Analysis & Opinion

Novo Nordisk remains slightly off the pace in terms of once-weekly GLP formulation; Amylin’s Bydureon was approved earlier this year. However, Bydureon has both failed to match the early growth performance of Victoza despite its once-weekly versus once-daily dosing, while loss of market share for Victoza since the launch of Amylin’s product has been limited. Analysts argue that the dosing convenience of Bydureon is offset somewhat by the pre-filled pen that Victoza is administered with, in addition to a smaller needle and the better efficacy of Novo Nordisk’s brand.

Competition in the GLP-1 market will nonetheless intensify; a pen version of Bydureon is in late-stage trials, while recently published mid-stage data for Eli Lilly’s dulaglutide have exceeded the expectations of some. Furthermore, first-quarter sales of Novo Nordisk’s Victoza were 9 percent below consensus, suggesting that the franchise may increasingly struggle to hit a previously anticipated sales ramp.

Although the launch of Bydureon has accelerated growth across the GLP-1 market, analysts are less bullish that subsequent launches, such as dulaglutide (once-weekly), Sanofi’s lixisenatide (once-daily) and GlaxoSmithKline’s albiglutide (once-weekly) will have the same effect. Instead, they anticipate that as market growth slows new launches will assume market share increasingly at the expense of incumbent players.

There are other factors to consider also, including the small matter of Amylin’s likely purchase by one of the leading Big Pharma players; a move that would enhance the sales and marketing capabilities supporting the Bydureon franchise and facilitate launch of the product in markets outside of the US.

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