Key piece of Roche, Novo Nordisk diabetes device deal nears EU approval

Novo Nordisk ($NVO) won the endorsement of a key European regulatory committee for a device designed to work in tandem with a Roche ($RHHBY) insulin pump to help simplify treatment for diabetics. A CE marking is likely and could open lucrative doors for both companies.

The European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use backed marketing approval for Novo Nordisk's NovoRapid PumpCart, a prefilled insulin pump cartridge designed to work with Roche Diabetes Care's Accu-Chek Insight insulin pump device. If all goes well, Novo Nordisk expects to launch the product in "select" European markets through 2014 and 2015.

Novo Nordisk said the advance would save insulin pump users from having to fill disposable plastic reservoirs with insulin, a simple improvement that leads to automatic and easier care for Type 1 diabetes patients. Roche, in return, gains another product option for patients who use its Accu-Chek Insight insulin pump.

It's a low-key but smart deal for both Denmark's Novo Nordisk and Switzerland's Roche ($RHHBY), two med tech giants that are pushing to respectively expand and revamp their diabetes businesses.

Novo Nordisk has been all about developing new consumer choices. In late summer, for example, the company won 510(k) clearance for a new insulin injection pen designed specifically with children in mind, after similar launches in Europe, Canada and Israel. But Roche may need the new product boost even more. Roche's diabetes arm continues to face slumping sales as demand has dropped globally for its blood glucose monitors. Roche has slashed hundreds of jobs and separated its blood glucose testing business from the insulin pump R&D unit in an effort to spark a rebound. To help make that happen, the company has targeted new product launches in its Accu-Chek franchise as a long-term solution to help recharge sales, and its partnership here with Novo Nordisk reflects an element of that strategy.

According to Novo Nordisk, 5% to 15% of people in Europe with Type 1 diabetes use a pump, depending on the country. In the U.S., 40% of Type 1 diabetes patients rely on an insulin pump.

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