November 29, 2005
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Danish Drug Firm Seeks
By FRANCES SCHWARTZKOPFF
DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
November 29, 2005
COPENHAGEN -- Novo Nordisk AS plans to visit four out of five doctors in the U.S. who write prescriptions for diabetes treatments, aiming to boost the Danish company's 40% share of the world's most lucrative market for medicine.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that 20.8 million Americans have diabetes, up 14% from two years ago. The U.S. is also the biggest diabetes-treatment market, with annual sales of diabetes-care products estimated at more than $7 billion.
"We have higher aspirations than just the 40% market share" that Novo Nordisk now has in the U.S., said Martin Soeters, the company's senior vice president for North America. Novo Nordisk recently became the U.S. market leader by volume of insulin sold.
But it might be difficult for Novo Nordisk to expand. It already sells its drugs to 60% of U.S. diabetes doctors and will have to target smaller medical practices to reach its 80% goal. Additionally, rivals already are marketing or developing products that Novo Nordisk won't be able to match for several years.
"This is a very substantial job to get done," Mr. Soeters said.
Obstacles to Novo Nordisk's effort include Eli Lilly & Co. and Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s Byetta and Sanofi-Aventis's Lantus. Byetta was approved in April and reduces anti-insulin hormones in patients. Last week, Novo Nordisk announced positive test results for a similar treatment, but analysts don't expect it to launch until 2009.
Amylin "will continue to hold multiple competitive advantages" over Novo Nordisk, said Piper Jaffray in a note yesterday. Byetta has a more convenient dosing frequency and timeline, the brokerage firm said. Lilly and Amylin are based in the U.S.
Sanofi-Aventis sells Lantus, a long-acting insulin analog that has a 25% share of all insulin sales in the U.S. market. Novo Nordisk plans to launch a comparable product, Levemir, next year. Sanofi-Aventis, based in France, also has joined up with Pfizer Inc. of the U.S. to launch an inhaled insulin; Novo Nordisk won't have a comparable treatment for several years.
Lehman Brothers in a note earlier this month said it expects Levemir's sales growth to eventually beat Lantus's, but that Lantus will retain its lead at least through 2009.
Write to Frances Schwartzkopff at firstname.lastname@example.org