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Novo upbeat as Victoza moves ahead in Q1

Type 2 diabetes drug helps drive Danish pharma company's sales

Growth in sales of Novo Nordisk's type 2 diabetes drug Victoza helped drive the Danish pharma company to an 18 per cent increase in operating profit in the first quarter, although analysts said the performance was a little worse than expected.

Operating profit came in at 6.39bn kroner ($1.13bn) on sales ahead 13 per cent at 17.75bn, with GLP-1 analogue Victoza (liraglutide) and Novo Nordisk's range of modern insulins leading the charge.

Victoza brought in 1.99bn kroner, up 81 per cent, although some analysts suggested this was on the light side. Novo Nordisk has been fending off criticism of the drug from consumer advocacy group Public Citizen which has asked for it to be taken off the market on safety grounds.

Sales of the drug were a little lower than in the fourth quarter of 2011, which Novo Nordisk attributed to seasonal effects.

The company said that Victoza is now available in 53 countries worldwide and has captured around 62 per cent market share against its GLP-1 analogue rivals, Amylin's exenatide-based Byetta and Bydureon.  GLP-1 analogues now account for 6 per cent of the global diabetes market, up from 4.8 per cent a year ago, it added.

Modern insulin products Levemir (insulin detemir) and NovoRapid (insulin aspart) contributed 7.86bn kroner, a rise of 17 per cent, while Novo Nordisk's older human insulin products rose 2 per cent to 2.72bn kroner, while oral antidiabetic agents such as NovoNorm (repaglinide) also rose marginally to 716m kroner.

One blot on the financials document was bleeding disorder drug NovoSeven, which declined 6 per cent to 1.91bn and, as with Victoza, underperformed analyst expectations.

Novo Nordisk attributed this to "a low level of surgeries involving NovoSeven treatment, stricter budgetary controls in hospitals, a low level of acquired haemophilia cases and also an increase in inhibitor patients participating in clinical trials".

On the positive side growth hormone Norditropin (somatropin) grew 8 per cent to 1.35bn kroner, capturing 24 per cent of the global market.

The company raised its 2012 forecasts marginally, saying it now expects sales to grow 8-11 per cent with earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) set to rise by 10 per cent or more.

Pharma job increases in US

Meanwhile, Novo has said it intends to boost staffing levels in the US by 15 per cent this year following its decision to move into a new headquarters in Plainsboro, New Jersey.

The staffing increases will be across all functions, adding administrative and sales jobs in Plainsboro, manufacturing positions in Clayton, North Carolina, and R&D staff in Seattle, Washington.

The company previously announced a $215m refit of an existing building at Plainsboro to house the new headquarters.

30th April 2012

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