Roche says diabetes drug studies show good results

* Roche says once-weekly taspoglutide beat rival drugs

* Says drug may help to restore normal insulin response

* Drug had suffered setback due to hypersensitivity worries

ZURICH, June 26 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Roche’s experimental diabetes drug taspoglutide showed good results in a series of late-stage studies, the group said on Saturday, after the drug suffered a severe setback just recently.

Roche launched a risk mitigation programme for the drug developed under license from French group Ipsen IPN.PA after hypersensitivity problems were seen in some patients, which will delay the drug by at least 12-18 months.[ID:nLDE65H05H]

In three phase III studies, once-weekly doses of taspoglutide in type 2 diabetes patients were comparable or better than drugs exenatide, sitagliptin and insulin glargine, Roche said.

Two additional studies showed that the drug significantly reduced body weight with low risk of hypoglycemia, Roche said.

“Further studies suggest that taspoglutide may help restore a normal insulin response as well as potentially preserving insulin-producing beta cells and subsequently protect them from cell death,” Roche said.

Roche, the world’s largest maker of cancer drugs, has said in the past that taspoglutide could see peak sales of at least 2 billion Swiss francs ($1.77 billion) if it gets to market.

The setback due to the hypersensitivy concerns raised questions about the commercial potential of taspoglutide in diabetes -- a disease that is on the rise worldwide and is a key focus for many drug companies.

Before the setback, Roche had been aiming to file taspoglutide worldwide in 2011, implying a market launch a year later.

Roche said on Saturday, the most common adverse events seen with taspoglutide based on the 24-week data were related to gastrointestinal tolerability and injection site reactions.

Nausea and vomiting were of mild to moderate intensity, generally occurred early in treatment on the day of injection and predominantly as a single episode, Roche said.

Reporting by Sven Egenter; Editing by Ron Askew