PARIS 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.
"...Sanofi will tap into technology advances that aim to create holistic treatment solutions which take into account the individual patient's needs," Pascale Witz, Sanofi's executive vice president of global divisions and strategic development, said in the statement.
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 in the statement.
An estimated 382 million people worldwide have diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Federation, with type 2 diabetes, which is 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.
(Reporting by Natalie Huet and Gus Trompiz, editing by William Hardy)