Novo Nordisk has posted a strong set of figures for the first half of the year, with operating profit soaring 39% to 7.90 billion kroner (about $1.53 billion), while sales were up 17% to 25.50 billion kroner.

Growth was driven by Novo's diabetes division, where turnover climbed 18% to 18.63 billion kroner. The firm's stable of modern insulin products, including Levemir (insulin detemir) and NovoRapid (nsulin aspart) contributed 10.40 billion kroner, an increase of 31%, boosted by strong Northern American sales. Oral antidiabetic products, notably NovoNorm/Prandin (repaglinide), were up 22% to 1.37 billion kroner.

Among the major products in Novo's biopharmaceuticals business, sales of which climbed 17% to 6.87 billion kroner, NovoSeven (recombinant Factor VIIa) was up 19% to 3.68 billion kroner, while the growth hormone Norditropin increased 16% to 2.16 billion kroner.

Novo chief executive Lars Rebien Sorensen said the results, which beat analyst estimates, were encouraging and the firm has raised its forecast for full-year 2009 underlying operating profit growth in local currencies to 12%-14% from an earlier guidance of 10%. Now all eyes are on how the Danish drugmaker’s new diabetes drug Victoza (liraglutide) which has recently been launched in the UK, Germany and Denmark.

Victoza, a once-daily human glucagon-like peptide-1 analogue will compete with Eli Lilly/Amylin’s GLP-1 blockbuster Byetta (exenatide) and analysts believe it will be a blockbuster. However the US Food and Drug Administration’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee voted 6-6 in April (with one abstention) as to whether data on thyroid tumours seen in studies on rodents permit approvability of the drug.

Novo says that “constructive dialogue” with the agency is continuing regarding the regulatory process for liraglutide, and formal feedback is expected later this quarter.