Novo Nordisk has received a boost following the publication of data which suggests that its new diabetes drug Victoza is more effective than Merck & Co’s Januvia.

Results from a 665-patient, 26-week study have been published in The Lancet which show that Victoza (liraglutide), the first once-daily human glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogue, produced “significantly greater reductions” in haemoglobin A1c fasting plasma glucose and body weight than Januvia (sitagliptin), a dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitor, in patients with type 2 diabetes. In addition, nearly twice as many study participants on Victoza reached the American Diabetes Association goal of an HbA1C less than 7% compared to the Januvia group (56% and 44% in the 1.8mg and 1.2mg liraglutide groups versus 22% for sitagliptin).

In an accompanying editorial in The Lancet, Drs Andre Scheen and Regis Radermecker of the University of Liege said 1.2mg of Victoza should be considered as a starting dose in most cases, although they did note that Januvia is cheaper, causes fewer gastrointestinal upsets and “one pill of sitagliptin daily might be judged as easier to administer than one subcutaneous injection of liraglutide daily”.

Novo's chief scientific officer Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen was upbeat, telling Reuters that the firm has “now done most, if not all, of the major comparator studies against different classes of oral and injectable anti-diabetic drugs”, notably Eli Lilly and Amylin's GLP-1 analogue Byetta (exenatide). Victoza, was approved in Europe in July 2009 and in the USA in January this year and observers are waiting to see how the drug’s launches have gone when Novo presents its first-quarter results tomorrow.