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Lilly chases Novo in insulin race

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Eli Lilly and Co. announced positive results for an experimental insulin at the annual American Diabetes Association conference in Philadelphia, but was still upstaged by Denmark-based Novo Nordisk A/S.

Novo announced more encouraging data about its super-long-acting insulin degludec, which it has submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration for approval.

Degludec proved as effective as Lantus, the leading long-acting insulin, at reducing blood sugar levels and led to fewer incidents of overnight hyperglycemia, the company said.

Novo is trying to grab more of the $5 billion in sales Lantus enjoys.

Lilly and its development partner Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH announced results at the conference about a long-acting insulin glargine they are developing to compete with Lantus. According to the Associated Press, the drug, known as LY2605541, was slightly better at reducing blood sugar levels and inducing weight loss for Type 1 diabetics, compared with Lantus. Results for Type 2 diabetics were about the same with either drug in the mid-stage clinical trial.

Lilly and Boehringer also announced new clinical trial results for their drug Tradjenta, which hit the market in the United States and Europe last year.

Lilly is the No. 3 player in diabetes, behind Novo and France-based Sanofi Aventisu SA, the maker of Lantus. But with Lantus’ patent expiring in 2014, Lilly could bump up to the No. 2 spot, according to projections by Jefferies & Co. analyst Jeffrey Holford.

Holford expects Lilly’s diabetes pipeline to produce $1.2 billion in new revenue by 2017, and for its existing diabetes products to add at least another $1 billion in annual revenue by then.

That represents compounded annual growth of more than 8 percent. But Holford still expects Novo to grow faster, at about 11 percent compounded annually.

"We expect the key diabetes brands and markets to exhibit sustainable high-single-digit growth," Holford recently wrote to investors. With Western populations aging and emerging nations adopting Western diets, he expects diabetes mediciations will reach a whopping $54 billion in sales by 2020.

 

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