Novo Nordisk has posted a healthy set of figures for the first half this morning, helped by a good start for its new diabetes drug Victoza.

Net profit climbed 21% to 6.87 billion kroner (about $1.21 billion), while sales were up 14% to 29.07 billion kroner, with turnover at Novo's diabetes division rising 16% to 21.63 billion kroner. The firm's stable of modern insulin products, including Levemir (insulin detemir) and NovoRapid (insulin aspart) contributed 12.65 billion kroner, an increase of 22%.

Human insulins were flat at 5.87 billion kroner, while oral antidiabetic products, notably NovoNorm/Prandin (repaglinide), slipped 1% to 1.35 billion kroner. Among the major products in Novo's biopharmaceuticals business, sales of which climbed 14% to 7.44 billion kroner. NovoSeven (recombinant Factor VIIa) was up 11% to 4.07 billion kroner, while the growth hormone Norditropin increased 8% to 2.33 billion kroner.

As for Victoza (liraglutide), sales of Novo’s once-daily human glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogue reached 666 million kroner, boosted by the supply chain pipeline filling for the US launch in February and re-ordering during the second quarter. The Danish company added that the product is commercially available in 14 European countries as well as the USA, Canada, Japan and three other territories.

For full-year 2010, the company has upgraded its guidance, saying that operating profit should grow at about 12%-15% in local currencies, up from above 10%, while sales growth is forecast at 9%-10% compared to a previous estimate of 7%-10%.

Chief executive Lars Rebien Sorensen said “the underlying business growth is solid”, adding that “we are also very encouraged by the continued progress within our pipeline including both new insulins, liraglutide for obesity and haemostasis projects”.

Analysts were impressed with the figures, especially its performance in the USA and emerging markets, plus the take-up of Victoza. However the broker Collins Stewart noted that much of the gains were helped by the effects of foreign exchange.