The newsflow on diabetes drugs is at a rapid-fire this week.
An estimated 20 million or so Americans have the disease, which many experts call an epidemic. It costs this country tens of billions of dollars a year to deal with it. And several biopharma and monitoring device companies are racing to grab a bigger piece of this fast-growing, sugar-free pie.
Yesterday, Eli Lilly, Amylin and Alkermes announced that once-a-week Byetta, which is in late-stage testing, lowered blood sugar more than pills—Merck's Januvia and Takeda's Actos. Today, an FDA advisory committee is looking at a potential competitor to the MRK drug from Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca called Onglyza. It's what's referred to as a "me-too" product in the industry because it's really not all that different from Januvia.
Tomorrow, though, the same FDA panel takes up a first-ever one-a-day injection called Victoza from diabetes drug kingpin NovoNordisk. Shares of NVO are bouncing back today after falling yesterday on investor jitters following the release of the agency briefing documents for Thursday's meeting. Many analysts cited the FDA's concern over a very small number of cases of thyroid tumors in people and lab rats that got Victoza. David Kliff, a type-2 diabetic who writes "The Diabetic Investor" newsletter says, "It wouldn't surprise Diabetic Investor at all if the FDA asked the company (NVO) to conduct another pre-approval study."