October 31, 2008
Danish drug giant Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO ) has really benefitted from being in a diabetes drug market that hasn't shown any sign of slowing down. It's allowed the drugmaker to post decent sales growth -- sales were up 7% year over year -- even with the Danish krone moving against the currencies that predominate its sales.
Operating profit was up 25% in local currency and up 15% even after being converted to kroner, thanks to a reduction in research and development expenses. Following in the footsteps of Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) and just ahead of Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY ) , Novo Nordisk ditched its inhaled insulin program earlier this year.
Novo Nordisk has done well competing with Sanofi-Aventis' (NYSE: SNY ) Lantus in the extended-release insulin market, but it's ready to make a play for type 2 diabetics that aren't on insulin yet -- assuming the Food and Drug Administration lets it start marketing liraglutide.
The compound has already been shown to work as well as Amylin Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: AMLN ) and Eli Lilly's Byetta, except that it has to be injected only once a day compared to twice a day for Byetta. But Novo Nordisk still needs the FDA to sign off on its marketing application. Considering that the FDA has been pushing back decisions on marketing applications and the extra scrutiny that's likely after Byetta was linked to pancreatitis, I'm not sure if the FDA will make its goal of March 23.
Novo Nordisk also has a decently stocked pipeline with the potential for liraglutide to be used as a treatment for obesity and a pair of next-generation insulins that are set to move into phase 3 trials next year.
Unless a recession starts making people eat better, the diabetes drug market is likely to continue to expand. Novo Nordisk is situated perfectly to take advantage of that growth no matter what continent it comes on.