By Saumya Joseph
(Reuters) – Eli Lilly and Co <LLY.N> said on Thursday its new two-in-one diabetes drug was successful in lowering blood sugar and reducing weight, sending its shares to a record high and weighing on those of arch-rival Novo Nordisk <NOVOb.CO>.
The novel drug targets two key gut hormones at the same time, and could pose a threat to currently available single-hormone drugs, which form a large and growing part of Novo’s business.
Lilly’s treatment reduced blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients by up to 2.4 percent and produced an average weight reduction of up to 12.7 percent in a mid-stage study by targeting the GLP-1 and GIP hormones.
The trial results set a new industry gold standard versus marketed GLP-1s, including Novo’s Ozempic for both blood sugar lowering and weight loss, Citi analyst Andrew Baum said.
Lilly’s shares were rose 6.5 percent to a record high of $115.68 in early trading, while those of Novo fell nearly 8 percent.
Novo’s existing GLP-1 products include Victoza and Omzepic, and the company is also developing an oral version of semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic.
Lilly said it intends to complete its late-stage study for the drug in late 2021, and is also evaluating the drug for treating obesity, among other conditions.
BMO Capital Markets analyst Alex Arfaei said the treatment provides Lilly with a reasonable shot at the large obesity market and should meaningfully strengthen the company’s position in the rapidly growing GLP-1 market.
About 30 million adults in the United States have diabetes, with 90 percent to 95 percent of them suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Obesity is a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, and weight loss as little as 5 percent of the total body weight has been found to help improve type 2 diabetes in patients who are obese or overweight, according to American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
Lilly’s wide portfolio of diabetes drugs, including GLP-1 drug Trulicity, contributed at least 38 percent to its total sales of $6.36 billion in the latest reported quarter.
“With Trulicity representing a core growth driver for Lilly and competitive concerns regarding Ozempic and oral semaglutide causing an overhang on shares over the past year, we see today’s results as a clear positive for the Lilly story,” JP Morgan analyst Chris Schott said in a note.
(Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)