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Mixed reaction to Novo Nordisk obesity trial

Analyst says Victoza only has a modest ability to reduce weight in people with diabetes

Novo Nordisk Victoza liraglutide obesity diabetesShares in Novo Nordisk took a downturn yesterday after phase III data on its Victoza (liraglutide) drug in overweight and obese people with diabetes failed to impress at least one analyst, who downgraded the stock.

The results of the first of three studies in Novo's SCALE clinical programme showed that liraglutide was effective in reducing weight in these patients, with a high (3mg) dose of the drug achieving a 6 per cent reduction compared to 2 per cent with placebo.

Similarly, a lower (already approved) dose of 1.8mg liraglutide managed a 5 per cent reduction, which was also statistically better than control. However, JP Morgan analyst Richard Vosser said the data suggested modest effects and would lead to "limited commercial upside" for the drug as an obesity treatment.

Coupled with the FDA's recent rejection of Novo's Tresiba (insulin degludec), the news prompted Vosser to cut his rating on the firm from neutral to underweight and recommend investors take profits, although other analysts suggested the data was robust enough to support FDA approval.

Novo is hoping that the SCALE data will support approval of the 3mg dose of liraglutide with a specific label claim in obesity, which could help it to differentiate its product from rival GLP-1 agonists such as Lilly's Byetta (exenatide) and GlaxoSmithKline's recently filed albiglutide.

The Danish pharma company said it was pleased with the results, which also showed that 50 per cent of patients in the liraglutide 3mg group and 35 per cent of those on 1.8mg lost at least 5 per cent of their body weight during the trial, compared to 13 per cent of patients in the placebo group. 

Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, Novo's chief science officer, said the trial "shows that it is possible to achieve both clinically significant weight loss and excellent glucose control with a single treatment in patients with type 2 diabetes".

"Weight management is often a greater challenge for this patient population and there is a need for new and effective treatment options," he added. The second and third SCALE trials are due for completion by the middle of this year.

19th March 2013

From: Research

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