Novo Nordisk has posted a healthy set of figures for the fourth quarter, helped by strong sales of diabetes drug Victoza.

Net profit climbed 19% to 4.69 billion Danish kroner (about $830 million), while sales were up 12% to 18.12 billion kroner. The firm's stable of modern insulin products, including Levemir (insulin detemir) and NovoRapid (insulin aspart) contributed 7.86 billion kroner, an increase of 10%.

However, human insulins were down 7% to 2.79 billion kroner, while oral antidiabetic products, notably NovoNorm/Prandin (repaglinide), fell 3% to 649 million kroner. As for Victoza (liraglutide), sales of Novo’s once-daily human glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogue reached 2.10 billion kroner, up 120%.

The Danish company said Victoza had 58% value market share in the GLP-1 segment in November 2011 compared to 30% a year earlier. The drug will face fresh competition in the USA following the recent approval of Amylin's Bydureon (extended-release exenatide) and Novo chief executive  Lars Rebien Sorensen said on a conference call  that "it is going be an interesting competition going forward".

He added that Amylin will have some success but "we hope that will be modest so that we can keep the lead in the market place". Mr Sorensen also claimed that Victoza had a "significant competitive advantage" over Bydureon.

Among the major products in Novo's biopharmaceuticals business, sales of which climbed 9% to 4.16 billion kroner, NovoSeven (recombinant Factor VIIa) was up 7% to 2.13 billion kroner, while the growth hormone Norditropin increased 8% to 1.34 billion kroner.

The firm says it expects sales growth in 2012 of 7%-11% in local currencies, despite "continued intense competition", generics of its oral antidiabetic products and the negative impact from the implementation of healthcare reforms primarily in the USA and Europe". Operating profit should increase 10%, which reflects "significant expenditure related to the expected launch" of the ultra-long-acting insulin Degludec.