The potential “holy grail” to treat diabetes has been launched in the UK.

Novo Nordisk’s once daily injection Victoza (liraglutide) became available in the UK from Tuesday promising to be a major milestone in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, which creates a £10 million-a-day burden on the NHS.

“We believe this is a revolutionary product. We’ve never seen anything like this before,” Viggo Birch, Managing Director of Novo Nordisk UK and Ireland, said in a press briefing on Tuesday morning.

Victoza is seen as “exciting” as it is an analogue of the human hormone Glucagon-like peptide-1. GLP-1 regulates blood sugar in a glucose-dependent manner but is metabolised very quickly. The analogue Victoza has 97% homology to the naturally occurring peptide and breaks down much more slowly.

The drug, which was approved in Europe last week as a second and third line therapy, also meets the shortcomings of current treatments such as weight gain and hypoglycaemia, scientific studies have shown.

Victoza is in the same class as Amylin/Eli Lilly’s blockbuster Byetta (exenatide). Novo has presented data that shows Victoza provides statistically significantly better blood glucose control than Byetta while also only requiring one injection per day, instead of two.

In recent times, diabetes drugs have developed a bit of a bad reputation. Pfizer’s hotly touted inhaled insulin Exubera was pulled from the market in 2007 after it failed to make an impact and was linked with lung cancer. This move was quickly followed by inhaled insulin developers Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly. Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia has continually battled critics with claims of cardiovascular risk, increased risk of bone fractures, and a possible link to liver failure.

Consistent outcomes
Birch said that launching Victoza now despite the bad diabetes drug environment was the right thing to do. “This is the most analysed, tried and evidenced based product ever seen before. All the outcomes are consistent and the benefits are extraordinary. I don’t see this falling into that category of those other diabetes drugs,” he said.

Professor Anthony Barnett, from the University of Birmingham, said Victoza could potentially be the “holy grail” to treat type 2 diabetes. “We don’t know the long term effects so break-through drugs such as Victoza need to have a caveat but this drug does tick all the boxes. It’s almost too good to be true.”

However, The USA Food and Drug Administration still has reservations about Victoza, with agency panelists split over results from rodent studies that suggest a link with thyroid tumours.