(Adds Toujeo phase 3 results, application to regulators)
By Natalie Huet
PARIS, June 14 (Reuters) - French drugmaker Sanofi said on Saturday it was teaming up with U.S. medical device maker Medtronic in diabetes.
The announcement comes as Sanofi seeks to defend its No.2 spot in a global diabetes market worth over $40 billion, at a time when top-selling drug Lantus, the world's most prescribed insulin, is set to lose patent protection early next year.
Under the terms of a memorandum of understanding, Sanofi and Medtronic will initially cooperate on developing drug-device combinations and offering care management services for diabetes patients. Depending on the results, they will consider other areas for collaboration, the companies said in a statement.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
"We see our diabetes franchise as a growing franchise even beyond the patent expiry of Lantus and this (partnership) will be an element which helps continue that growth," Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher told Reuters, declining to provide detailed forecasts.
The alliance, which covers type 2 diabetes, will bring together Sanofi's insulin portfolio and Medtronic's insulin pumps and glucose monitoring, with a focus on sufferers unable to achieve glucose control despite multiple daily injections of insulin, the companies said.
An estimated 382 million people worldwide have diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Federation, with type 2 diabetes, often associated with obesity, accounting for 90 percent to 95 percent of all cases.
Sanofi and Medtronic already have an agreement in Europe covering an implantable insulin delivery system for type 1 diabetes and plan to add this to their alliance, they said.
Diabetics have inadequate blood sugar control which can lead to complications including nerve and kidney damage. Worldwide deaths from the disease are running at over 5 million a year, as over-eating and lack of exercise fuel an epidemic of type 2 diabetes.
Sanofi faces tough competition from market leader Novo Nordisk and close rival Lilly & Co, in addition to much smaller generic producers. Its star diabetes drug Lantus, also known as insulin glargine, was developed in the 1990s and currently accounts for close to a fifth of the company's sales and over a third of operating profit.
As a successor for this cash cow, it is developing an improved, long-acting version of Lantus called Toujeo.
In a separate statement on Saturday, Sanofi said phase three results for Toujeo "consistently showed significantly fewer low blood sugar events" compared with Lantus.
The European Medicines Agency accepted on May 27 to examine Sanofi's request to market the drug, Sanofi said, adding that it was waiting for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to agree to consider its application in the United States.
Additional reporting by Gus Trompiz, editing by William Hardy