Sanofi seeks compelling case for next-generation Lantus in diabetes war

As a major medical meeting brings the spotlight to new diabetes drugs this month, Sanofi ($SNY) has begun reaching out to the media to secure center-stage status for data on its new therapies. As Reuters reports today, the French drug giant has a next-generation version of its best-selling insulin drug Lantus as well as a combo therapy that have implications for its future in the market.

Much has happened in the diabetes field since last year's American Diabetes Association annual meeting. Here are some of the highlights that concern Sanofi: Novo Nordisk ($NVO) suffered a setback for its Lantus rival Tresiba in the U.S., where regulators asked for more clinical data over concerns about heart side effects, giving Lantus some breathing room. And in February the European Commission approved Sanofi's GLP drug Lyxumia, giving the company a place in a market dominated by Novo's Victoza and drug from Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and AstraZeneca ($AZN).

Lantus led the market for long-acting insulin remedies last year with more than $6 billion in sales for Sanofi, but the therapy has plenty of competitive threats on the horizon, including Tresiba and a biosimilar version of the top-seller from Eli Lilly ($LLY) that could take a bite out of sales after Lantus loses patent protections in 2015. This puts pressure on the next-gen version of Sanofi's Lantus to demonstrate a better profile than the original, which has been linked to cases of dangerously low blood sugar called hypoglycemia and other side effects.

Novo has highlighted the benefits of Tresiba, which is now approved in Europe and Japan, including the rates of hypoglycemia. As Reuters reports, the next-gen Lantus could reduce the competitive threats to Sanofi in the diabetes field because it lasts longer and could have lower risks of hypoglycemia. Sanofi is also testing a pen device that delivers Lantus and Lyxumia which could differentiate its offering in the competitive diabetes market.

"Lyxumia will take a small market share by itself, but it may grab considerable market share from Lantus biosimilars because the combination shows a much better profile than Lantus alone," said Valentina Gburcik, a healthcare analyst at consulting firm GlobalData, as quoted by the news service.

Sanofi has plowed billions of dollars into research and development of diabetes drugs, investing in therapies against one of the fastest-growing health threats in the world. More than 371 million people around the world have diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Federation, and that number is expected to top half a billion in the coming years as rates grow in every country.

FierceBiotech plans to follow developments closely around the ADA annual meeting in Chicago later this month.

- check out the Reuters article

Special Report: Top diabetes drug pipelines of 2012

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