Eli Lilly has been boosted by data from a head-to-head study which shows that its investigational GLP-1 glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonist dulaglutide is as effective as the market-leader in that class of diabetes drugs, Novo Nordisk’s Victoza.

The US major announced positive top-line results of the sixth trial in its AWARD programme, whereby once-weekly dulaglutide 1.5 mg achieved the primary endpoint of non- inferiority to once-daily Victoza (liraglutide) 1.8 mg, as measured by the reduction of haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) from baseline at 26 weeks. Adverse events were similar for patients in both treatment groups.

Enrique Conterno, president of Lilly Diabetes, noted that dulaglutide is the only GLP-1 agonist to show non-inferiority against Victoza’s highest-approved dose in a Phase III trial. The drug has been submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency and Lilly noted that all previous five AWARD trials achieved their primary endpoint in reduction of HbA1c against placebo and active comparators.

Analysts and investors are getting excited about the prospects for dulaglutide, given its once-weekly dosing and a smaller needle size than AstraZeneca's once-weekly Bydureon (extended-release exenatide). Also, in a head-to-head study three years ago, the latter failed to show non-inferiority versus Victoza.