Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk has posted a 13% decrease in net income for the first half of 2008 to 4.65 billion kroner (around $956.3 million), although strong sales growth for its modern insulins pushed group turnover up 7% to 21.72 billion kroner.

Growth was driven by Novo's diabetes division, where turnover rose 7% to 15.85 billion kroner, with the firm's stable of modern insulin, including Levemir (insulin detemir), contributing 7.92 billion kroner of the total, an increase of 20%. Sales of oral antidiabetic products, notably NovoNorm/Prandin (repaglinide), were up 6% to 1.12 billion kroner.

Among the major products in Novo's biopharmaceuticals business, sales of which climbed 5% to 5.87 billion kroner, NovoSeven (recombinant Factor VIIa) was up 6% to 3.09 billion kroner, while growth hormone product sales, including Norditropin, went up 9% to 1.86 billion kroner.

Novo said that for full-year 2008, operating profit should grow between 22%-25%, up from a previous forecast of “slightly more than 20%”. However the results failed to impress investors and the stock slipped just over 5% to 303 kroner, despite the stock having enjoyed a strong run of late.

The problem is not the figures but rather uncertainty about its eagerly-anticipated diabetes drug liraglutide. Novo submitted liraglutide, a glucagon-like peptide-1 analogue to regulators on both sides of the Atlantic in May and data has shown that it provides statistically significantly better blood glucose control than Eli Lilly/Amylin’s blockbuster Byetta (exenatide).

However advisors to the US Food and Drug Administration recently recommended that the agency require drugmakers to conduct long-term trials of new diabetes treatments to evaluate cardiovascular risks. This could delay the launch of any products by up to three years but Novo believes there will be no need for a cardiovascular study before liraglitude is approved.