Novo Nordisk could reap billions from experimental diabetes pill

Victoza 349x210 Novo Nordisk could reap billions from experimental diabetes pillDrug maker Novo Nordisk has enjoyed booming profits from its injectable diabetes treatment Victoza, thanks to winning approval for a potent version of the drug, marketed as Saxenda, as an obesity treatment. But it’s new oral version of a diabetes drug from the same class as Victoza could send profits as high as $20 billion per year.

In the pharmaceutical industry, drugs that reap annual profits of at least $1 billion are called blockbusters. There is a special term for a drug that exceeds $10 billion in sales – super-blockbuster, says Seeking Alpha. These drugs are few and far between, and include the statin Lipitor.

Novo Nordisk’s latest diabetes drug candidate, semaglutide, was developed with Emisphere Technologies. It is in a class of type 2 diabetes drugs known as GLP-1 agonists. Others in this class include the brand names Bydureon and Byetta.

GLP-1 agonists work by stimulating insulin production in a glucose-dependent manner, such as when food is consumed. Semaglutide, the only non-injectable version of the drug, will enter Phase 3 clinical trials and, if approved, is expected to hit the market sometime around 2019 and 2020.

Like Victoza and other GLP-1 agonists, semaglutide side effects include weight loss, which means Novo Nordisk would likely pursue approval for the drug as a weight loss treatment. And if the drug company looks for other possible indications – such as prediabets and the treatment of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, then the profit potential skyrockets, Seeking Alpha predicts.

But one hurdle may be side effects. GLP-1 drugs, including Victoza and Byetta, have been liked to cases of acute pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas. The drugs also have linked to thyroid and pancreatic cancer.

Source: Seeking Alpha