Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk has posted a healthy increase, 24%, in net income for the first quarter to 2.70 billion kroner (around $481.19 million), boosted again by strong sales growth for its modern insulin products.

Group turnover was up 18% to 12.50 billion kroner, driven by Novo's diabetes division, where turnover rose 17% to 9.17 billion kroner. The firm's stable of modern insulin products, including Levemir (insulin detemir), contributed 4.99 billion kroner, an increase of 31%, while sales of oral antidiabetic products, notably NovoNorm/Prandin (repaglinide), were up 8% to 691 million kroner.

Among the major products in Novo's biopharmaceuticals business, sales of which climbed 20% to 3.33 billion kroner, NovoSeven (recombinant Factor VIIa) was up 25% to 1.81 billion kroner, while the growth hormone Norditropin increased 18% to 1.03 billion kroner.

Novo chief executive Lars Rebien Sorensen said the firm is satisfied with its financial performance during the quarter, “driven by solid sales growth for the modern insulins and gross margin improvements”. Most eyes are now on the company’s eagerly-anticipated diabetes drug Victoza (liraglutide), which has recently received a positive opinion in Europe, and the CEO said that launches in the first European markets will take place this summer.

Victoza, a once-daily human glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogue which will compete with Eli Lilly/Amylin’s GLP-1 blockbuster Byetta (exenatide), faces a waiting game in the USA. The Food and Drug Administration’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee voted 6-6 at the beginning of the month (with one abstention) as to whether data on thyroid tumours seen in studies on rodents permit approvability of the drug. The agency is expected to give its verdict on Victoza soon.