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Victoza drives Novo Nordisk growth in 2011

Diabetes portfolio encourages 12 per cent increase in revenues for Denmark-based firm

Novo Nordisk posted a 12 per cent increase in revenues to 18.12bn Danish kroner ($3.2bn) in the fourth quarter of 2011, with its focus on insulin and other diabetes drugs allowing it to evade issues holding back many of its larger rivals.

The major success in Novo Nordisk's product portfolio at present is its once-daily injectable diabetes drug Victoza (liraglutide), which grew 120 per cent to 2.1bn kroner and is now available in 48 countries worldwide.

The product achieved blockbuster status in 2011 and now has 58 per cent market share among drugs in the fast-growing GLP-1 inhibitor class, according to the company.

However, it may start to experience stiffer competition now that Amylin's once-weekly Bydureon (exenatide) has been approved in the US.

Meanwhile, solid performances from the company's line of modern insulins provided a large portion of revenue growth.

The company has been successful in switching patients from older human insulins, which declined 7 per cent to 2.79bn kroner, to newer analogue products such as Levemir (insulin detemir) and NovoRapid (insulin aspart). Together these pulled 7.86bn kroner in the quarter, a rise of 10 per cent.

Net profit grew 19 per cent to 4.69bn kroner, ahead of analysts' expectations and the company's earlier guidance, thanks largely to the increase in revenues and despite increases in production, selling and distribution expenses.

Novo Nordisk is also optimistic about its pipeline prospects, particularly its ultra-long-acting insulin Degludec and combination product DegludecPlus, which can be administered once-daily at any time of day.

The two products have been filed for approval in Europe, the US, Japan, Switzerland and Canada, with US approval on course for the end of July.

If registered the products would give Novo Nordisk an opportunity to take on Sanofi's ultra-long-acting Lantus (insulin glargine), which is the top-selling insulin in the world with sales of expected to reach around €3.8bn ($5bn) in 2011.

For 2012 the company is expected sales growth of 7 to 11 per cent and operating profit growth of 10 per cent.

3rd February 2012

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