Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk will be celebrating news that Victoza has been recommended as a treatment for diabetes type 2 for National Health Service patients in England and Wales.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has published draft guidance recommending the use of Victoza (liraglutide) 1.2 mg daily under certain conditions, making it the first incretin-based diabetes therapy to receive statutory funding direction if final guidance – expected in October – follows suit.

Victoza, which received European approval in July last year, is the world’s first once-daily human glucagon-like peptide-1 analogue, which lowers blood glucose levels by stimulating the release of insulin only when glucose levels become too high, and has added advantages of inhibiting appetite, potentially leading to weight loss, and a low risk of hypoglycaemia.

Specifically, the cost regulator has OK’d the use of once-daily Victoza as part of dual therapy regimens, i.e. in combination with metformin or a sulphonylurea, when the patient cannot take one of these drugs, or thiazolidinediones and dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors.

Victoza can also be considered for treatment as part of triple therapy regimens - in combination with metformin and a sulfonylurea, or metformin and a thiazolidinedione – but only when control of blood glucose is inadequate and the either patient has a Body Mass Index over 35kg/m2 or where weight loss would benefit other significant obesity-related co-morbidities.

On the down side, NICE has not recommended 1.8mg formulation of liraglutide as an option for people with type 2 diabetes, as its Appraisal Committee felt clinical data showed only a marginal benefit from using this higher dose.

"Good news"

Nevertheless, approval of Victoza 1.2mg for NHS use is “good news” for healthcare professionals and their patients, according to Professor Anthony Barnett, Professor of Medicine, Consultant Physician and Clinical Director of Diabetes and Endocrinology at the University of Birmingham and Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.

“Diabetes is an enduring challenge for the NHS and liraglutide is now a valuable option available through the NHS for treating appropriate patients who we, as healthcare professionals, believe will benefit from the therapy,” he said.

“Diabetes and its complications cost the NHS around £9 billion each year,” added Viggo Birch, Managing Director of Novo Nordisk Ltd. “We believe liraglutide in combination with either one or two anti-diabetic tablets can have significant benefits for people living with type 2 diabetes, and are therefore delighted NICE has recognised this.”

Victoza was approved by the Scottish Medicines Consortium for use in NHS Scotland in December last year.