Novo's pioneering diabetes pill beats Victoza, Januvia in tests

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COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Novo Nordisk’s experimental diabetes pill, which it hopes will transform the diabetes market, has proved superior to both Merck & Co’s Januvia and its own best-selling injectable treatment Victoza in tests.

The positive results in the latest of a series of pivotal clinical trials boost analysts’ expectations that Novo’s oral semaglutide medicine could become a multibillion-dollar blockbuster. Novo shares jumped more than 4 percent in early trade on Thursday.

The trial against Victoza, a once-daily injection, met the primary endpoint of similar blood sugar reduction but was also superior on weight loss, Novo said in a statement late on Wednesday.

“This data is important, as it positions oral-sema as at least as good as the market leading injectable GLP-1,” said Deutsche Bank analysts.

The once-daily pill belongs to a blockbuster class of treatments known as GLP-1s that stimulate insulin production, the first of which were derived from the venomous bite of North America’s Gila monster lizard. So far, all have been injections.

Deutsche believes oral semaglutide could eventually sell more than $5 billion a year and allow Novo to grow sales in the high-margin GLP-1 diabetes segment for years to come, with the new product potentially priced closer to expensive injections than cheaper diabetes pills.

Analysts from Bernstein also said the outcome was stronger than anticipated.

The outcome of the trial against Merck’s Januvia, an oral medication known chemically as sitagliptin, showed Novo’s new drug was superior in demonstrating reductions in both long-term blood sugar level and weight, Novo said.

The success of oral semaglutide in the Phase III trials is a fillip for a medicine seen as important for ensuring the group’s long-term growth in a highly competitive diabetes market. It follows earlier results from other Phase III studies that have also been positive.

Reporting by Stine Jacobsen and Ben Hirschler; Editing by Keith Weir