Novo Nordisk has been boosted by the publication of data from a trial which demonstrates that the company’s investigational diabetes drug Victoza enjoyed a greater reduction in blood sugar than Amylin/Eli Lilly/Alkermes’ blockbuster Byetta.

The data, presented at the American Diabetes Association meeting in New Orleans, and published in The Lancet, came from a comparison trial of Victoza (liraglutide) and Byetta (exenatide). Both drugs belong to the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogue class of drugs. The Danish drugmaker had previously reported preliminary findings of the trial a year ago.

The 464-patient study, sponsored by Novo, found that treatment with liraglutide led to a greater drop in A1C level of 1.12% compared with 0.79% in patients on Byetta. Both treatments led to a weight reduction of around 3kg during the 26-week study but the results showed that there was less persistent nausea and fewer minor hypoglycaemic events with liraglutide compared to exenatide.

The head-to-head data comes just as Novo also published findings from a two-year trial, which showed that patients on liraglutide saw A1C levels on average drop by 1.1% compared with a 0.6% reduction with Sanofi-Aventis’ older drug Amaryl (glimepiride), a sulfonylurea. Also patients on liraglutide lost an average of 2.7kg, while glimepiride patients gained 1.1kg.

Victoza is injected once a day compared with the twice-daily Byetta though Amylin and partners have recently filed their once-weekly version of exenatide with regulators in the USA.

As for Victoza, the drug recently received a positive opinion in Europe, and the company is hoping that launches in the first European markets will take place this summer. The path to approval in the USA seems more complicated after the 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.