Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk has racked up another approval for its diabetes drug Victoza, this time in China, where some 90 million people are thought to have the condition.

The Chinese State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) has issued a green light for Victoza (liraglutide) as a treatment for type 2 diabetes (as an add-on to metformin or sulfonylurea), making it the first once-daily human Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogue approved in the country.

According to Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, executive vice president and chief science officer of Novo Nordisk, the approval in China, which currently has the largest diabetes type 2 population in the world and the third largest market for therapies to treat it, represents an "exciting opportunity".

Diabetes is still on the rise in the country, and Victoza "offers a unique treatment option by effectively reducing HbA1c and weight with a low risk of hypoglycaemia in [patients] inadequately controlled by oral anti-diabetic agents", he said.

It is feared that China is fast heading for a diabetes epidemic, as in addition to those with the full blown disease, more 150 million are showing early signs of it, according to research published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine, highlighting the importance of having effective therapies to hand to manage the condition.

The drug stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreas but only when blood sugar levels are high, and stands apart from many other diabetes agents through its association with weight loss, thought to be partially down to its ability to increase the feeling of fullness after food by slowing gastric emptying. 

Victoza is already available in a number of countries, including the US and throughout Europe, and raked in sales of 2.32 billion kroner in 2010. 

Novo said it has scheduled a launch in China for sometime during the second half of the year, which, given the size of the market, should give a significant boost to sales.