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

Net profit climbed 23% to 3.32 billion kroner (about $594.4 million), while sales were up 9% to 13.67 billion kroner, with turnover at Novo's diabetes division rising 11% to 10.15 billion kroner. The firm's stable of modern insulin products, including Levemir (insulin detemir) and NovoRapid (insulin aspart) contributed 5.86 billion kroner, an increase of 17%.

Human insulins slipped 8% to 2.77 billion kroner, while oral antidiabetic products, notably NovoNorm/Prandin (repaglinide), were down 7% to 645 million kroner. Among the major products in Novo's biopharmaceuticals business, sales of which climbed 6% to 3.52 billion kroner. NovoSeven (recombinant Factor VIIa) was up 6% to 1.91 billion kroner, while the growth hormone Norditropin increased 5% to 1.08 billion kroner.

However, observers were most interested in how Victoza (liraglutide), Novo’s once-daily human glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogue for type 2 diabetes, performed. The company noted that sales reached 370 million kroner during the first quarter of 2010, boosted by the supply chain pipeline filling in the USA of 250 million kroner in connection with the launch there in mid-February.

Novo added that “the initial market feedback is positive for Victoza", which is now available in Germany, the UK, Denmark, Austria, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Finland and France, as well as across the Atlantic.

For 2010, the company has provided a modest upgrade in terms of guidance, saying that operating profit should grow above 10%, rather than “around”, while sales growth is forecast at 7%-10%, rather than 6%-10%.