Don't let it get away!
Keep track of the stocks that matter to you.
Help yourself with the Fool's FREE and easy new watchlist service today.
Better late than never? Maybe not.
Victoza is in the same class as Amylin Pharmaceuticals' (Nasdaq: AMLN ) and Eli Lilly's (NYSE: LLY ) Byetta, but is injected just once a day, instead of twice a day for Byetta. That's a pretty good advantage -- except that the marketing window is slowly closing. Amylin has developed a once-weekly version of Byetta using Alkermes' (Nasdaq: ALKS ) extended-release technology. Assuming it doesn't run into the same long delay Victoza saw, the FDA should be making an announcement about once-weekly Byetta in March.
Needless to say, Novo Nordisk is trying its best to hit the ground running with a launch within weeks, but that may not be enough. Doctors who know that once-weekly Byetta could be just a few months off probably will be less likely to switch patients from twice-daily Byetta to once-daily Victoza now.
Even if once-weekly Byetta gets delayed, Novo Nordisk may have trouble getting new patients onto Victoza. The label says the drug shouldn't be used as a first line treatment, probably because of the thyroid cancer seen in studies done in rats. Twice-daily Byetta, on the other hand, is approved as a first-line treatment. While I'm not convinced that many doctors would prescribe Byetta before trying oral medications developed by Merck (NYSE: MRK ) , Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY ) , and others, the FDA's prior approval of Byetta for early use makes it sound safer than Victoza.
At this point, Novo Nordisk's best chance at a victory for Victoza is if once-weekly Byetta gets hung up at the FDA. Or better yet, hung out to dry.
Timing is everything. Except when it's not, says Rex Moore.