Novo Nordisk’s liraglutide is one drug with two names. With last week’s approval of Saxenda, Novo is planning to unveil the second of the two brands in the liraglutide franchise, this one labeled for weight loss, a different, if not somewhat overlapping, condition than sister GLP-1 drug Victoza’s type 2 diabetes indication.
The Danish drugmaker is expected to try and capitalize on inroads already made in the metabolic community. Unknown is the drug’s potential to leverage Victoza’s success with prescribers and patients, and drive sales for what is technically an unfamiliar brand.
While Novo has played up the weight-loss benefit of Victoza (liraglutide in a 1.8mg dose), liraglutide for obesity is going its own way with the new name and indication. It’s set to launch in the first half of 2015, the company told MM&M.
Victoza has led in the GLP-1 segment, posting $1.4 billion sales in the US in 2013, a 40% increase over 2012, according to IMS Health, boosted by robust DTC spending. Novo spent about $57 million touting the diabetes drug to consumers in 2013, a more than 100% increase from 2012, per figures from Nielsen.
Novo said it is not yet ready to reveal marketing plans for Saxenda. A company spokesperson emphasized to MM&M the two drugs’ different indications.
Neither the label nor the indication for Victoza have changed. Novo has touted the side benefit that “it may help you lose weight.”
Saxenda, liraglutide at a higher 3mg dose, is not indicated for treating T2D, “as the safety and efficacy of Saxenda for the treatment of diabetes has not been established,” Novo emphasized in a statement.
Saxenda is indicated as an adjunct therapy to a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or who are overweight in the presence of at least one weight-related comorbid condition.
That gives it a clinical profile which seems to parallel that of several new oral entrants that have reached market the past two years, providing doctors and patients with various alternative therapies—important, as weight-loss drugs tend to work differently in different people, their marketers say.
At the same time, as an injectable GLP-1 drug, Saxenda may have a hard time competing against the oral treatments, which include Arena and Eisai’s Belviq, Vivus’s Qsymia and Orexigen’s Contrave, which hit shelves in October.
Novo has tested Saxenda in patients with and without diabetes, showing weight-loss improvements in both populations. In a trial enrolling non-diabetics, 62% of patients lost at least 5% of body weight vs. 34% on placebo. In another trial, this one with type 2 diabetics as a cohort, 49% lost 5% body weight compared with 16% on placebo.
“Marketing plans for Saxenda will be communicated as we get closer to launch in the first half of 2015,” said Sharon Corbitt, Novo senior manager, strategic communications for the drugmaker’s obesity launch team, and diabetes marketing, noting also that Saxenda’s pricing has not yet to been set.