Friday, March 06, 2009

Whoops! Did We--and Novo--Speak Too Soon?

Did we—and Novo—speak too soon yesterday about Victoza’s chances at the FDA advisory committee next month? We reported Novo’s confidence that its GLP-1 analog liraglutide won’t be required to comply fully with the new FDA diabetes guidance issued last December.

Today, however, Takeda tells us that FDA has said its new diabetes treatment, alogliptin, will indeed be subject to the December guidance, even though it, like Victoza, was submitted earlier. It appears that Takeda will require more data, and, according to JP Morgan analysts, “this provides absolute clarity that FDA will now apply its new guidelines to all new diabetes drug applications.” Oh dear. Misplaced confidence? (Certainly Novo’s investors think so: shares were off about 3% today.)

But Novo’s position hasn’t changed. “Today is no different than yesterday,” Novo’s CMO Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen told The In Vivo Blog this afternoon. Liraglutide’s clinical trial program is more than double the size of alogliptin’s. And they’re completely different drugs: alogliptin is a DPP-IV inhibitor, a class that isn’t shown to improve blood pressure or reduce weight, as Novo claims is the case with Victoza. It’s conceivable, therefore, that FDA might hold DPP-IV inhibitors up to the new guidance—but not GLP-1 analogs, at least, not quite so strictly.

Thomsen also re-iterates that the company has done its MACE analyses (of CV events) with good results—indeed, the JP Morgan analysts appear to interpret this as Victoza actually meeting the new guidance requirements, despite the statistical powering issues (we couldn’t check as they don’t talk to journalists.)

Victoza’s other potential advantage: it’s clearly differentiated from the only other drug in its class, Lilly/Amylin's Byetta, on both efficacy and conveniece. Takeda can’t say the same.
Good for Novo. Why not hold a brave face? If one thing’s clear, though, it’s that victory next month is not a foregone conclusion. But even if Victoza does stumble—and, as one of you kindly pointed out yesterday, pancreatitis is another possible hurdle, given Byetta’s story so far, although Novo doesn’t think it will be more than a labelling issue—Novo might not mind that much (not that it would ever say so.) As mentioned, any delay would likely stall Byetta LAR, too. Which leaves Novo playing in the field where it’s strongest: insulin.

image from flikr user Mel B. used under a creative commons license

No comments: