Data may lift Lilly’s fortunes in diabetes market-WEB ONLY

Could Eli Lilly be getting some revenge in the diabetes market?

The Indianapolis drugmaker released clinical trial data today showing that its long-acting version of Byetta helped patients reduce their blood sugar and weight better than the long-acting insulin Lantus.

Lantus, made by France-based Sanofi-Aventis SA, is a drug that stole significant insulin market share from Lilly earlier this decade, leading to Lilly’s cancellation of a new insulin plant in Virginia.

Lilly, the pioneer of insulin, has had no long-acting answer to Lantus. But it’s trying to develop long-acting Byetta (which is not insulin) to compete. Lilly and its two development partners submitted the drug earlier this month for U.S. regulatory approval.

The clinical trial studied 467 patients who were randomly given either Lantus or long-acting Byetta for 26 weeks. By the trial’s end, patients taking Byetta saw their blood sugar (measured by hemoglobin A1C levels) fall 1.5 percentage points, compared to a 1.3 percentage point drop for Lantus patients.

Also, patients taking long-acting Byetta lost 5.8 pounds compared with a gain of 3.1 pounds for Lantus patients.

Byetta patients also experienced fewer episodes of hypoglycemia than Lantus patients, Lilly announced.

Lilly is developing long-acting Byetta (also called exenatide) with California-based Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Massachusetts-based Alkermes Inc.

A twice-daily version of Byetta has been on the market since 2005. It recorded worldwide sales last year of $751 million.

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