Eli Lilly and Co said its type 2 diabetes drug was more effective than Sanofi SA's approved drug Lantus in reducing patients' blood sugar levels in three late-stage trials.
Lilly said while the main goal of the trials was to show that the drug, basal insulin peglispro, was as effective as Lantus, the trials showed the drug reduced blood sugar levels significantly more than Lantus.
Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, happens when the body does not use insulin properly, leading to high levels of blood sugar.
Basal insulin, or long-acting insulin therapies, are usually prescribed to keep blood sugar levels in control between meals.
Sanofi's Lantus is the world's most prescribed insulin product with quarterly worldwide sales of about $2 billion. The drug will lose U.S. patent protection in February 2015.
Lilly, which is counting heavily on new drug approvals to boost its fortunes, said it expected to file for European and U.S. regulatory approval for basal insulin peglispro by the end of first quarter of 2015.
Analysts expect Lilly's drug to reach sales of about $242 million by 2018, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Diabetes drugs have been Lilly's strong point for the past decade. But competition from new drugs, including those from Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk, has hit the company's sales.
An estimated 382 million people worldwide have diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Federation, with type 2 accounting for 90-95 percent of all cases. Type 2 diabetes is also closely linked with obesity.
The trials tested Lilly's drug in three patient groups: those who were not previously taking insulin, those who were taking mealtime insulin and those who were already taking another basal insulin.
All three groups were given Lilly's basal insulin and the results were compared with patients given Lantus.
Indianapolis-based Lilly's shares were trading flat at $59.31 in late morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Reporting by Esha Dey in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D'Souza)