Novo Nordisk has had a tough start to 2014, hit by currency effects and generic competition, and has lowered its sales forecasts for the full year.

The first-quarter figures are not bad, however, as net profit climbed 8% to 6.46 billion Danish kroner (about $1.19 billion), while sales were up 2% to 20.34 billion kroner. The firm's stable of modern insulin products, including Levemir (insulin detemir) and NovoRapid (insulin aspart) contributed 9.38 billion kroner, an increase of 4%._

Human insulins were down 9% at 2.57 billion kroner, while oral antidiabetic products, notably NovoNorm/Prandin (repaglinide), sank 39% as a result to generic competition in the USA for the latter, to 426 million kroner. As for Victoza (liraglutide), sales of Novo’s once-daily human glucagon-like peptide-1 analogue reached 2.92 billion kroner, up 9%; the Danish company said Victoza now has a 71% market share in the GLP-1 segment.

Tresiba (insulin degludec), Novo's new-generation, long-acting insulin, brought in 80 million kroner, from 9 million kroner a year ago, and has now been launched in 12 markets. However, in the markets where Tresiba has been launched with restricted market access compared to Sanofi's blockbuster Lantus (insulin glargine), "penetration remains limited", Novo noted.

Still chief executive Lars Rebien Sorensen said that "we are encouraged by the performance of Tresiba in key markets and by the rapid recruitment into the DEVOTE study (a cardiovascular outcomes trial demanded by the US Food and Drug Administration), which enables us to shorten the timeline for the interim analysis and a potential US launch".

As for Novo's biopharmaceuticals business, sales of which climbed 5% to 4.38 billion kroner, NovoSeven (recombinant Factor VIIa) was up 11% to 2.25 billion kroner, while the growth hormone Norditropin dipped 2% to 1.50 billion kroner.

Mr Sorensen reiterated expectations for operating profit growth in 2014 of 10% in local currencies "despite a challenging start of the year", but forecast a lower outlook for sales growth.