Be Different

Being Different in Diabetes and Obesity

Being different can be uncomfortable and, sometimes, rewarding. A new review in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds only small differences between a rising crop of new, once-weekly drugs for diabetes called GLP-1 agonists. The investigators found a lot of similarities between the outcomes with these drugs, along with some differences in side effects, body weight, and markers of diabetes control. Writing in an editorial to accompany the article, Victor M. Montori and Rene Rodriguez-Gutierrez cautioned against making too much of these differences:

Apparent differences in efficacy and harm across agents in a drug class may disappear, for example, when researchers enroll consecutive patients (including those with other chronic conditions or with a different duration of diabetes), test the comparators using doses of similar potency, carefully identify and report adverse effects, and conduct this work independently of the manufacturers.

Novo vs SanofiSo with a lot of similar options for treating diabetes, price pressures are mounting on the pharmaceutical companies that develop and sell them. In particular, Sanofi has been getting a lot of press about how the price pressure on their diabetes drugs is hurting their profits and their stock price.

And that brings us to a different company taking a more innovative approach: Novo Nordisk. Endocrinologists have long understood that type 2 diabetes and obesity are closely related. Where Sanofi took a strategic decision seven years ago to walk away from developing drugs for obesity, Novo Nordisk took the opposite decision and invested heavily in obesity research. Their GLP-1 agonist, liraglutide, was approved and launched this year at a 3 mg dose for treating obesity. And they are developing a new, once-weekly drug in this class (semaglutide) for both diabetes and obesity treatment.

We believe that this innovative approach is a good thing for people with obesity and diabetes. It also seems to be a good thing for Novo Nordisk. The company is defying the pressures that others are feeling in the marketplace and delivering solid sales growth. We hope that other innovators will take the cue and start investing in obesity care.

Click here for the study of GLP-1 agonists, here for the editorial, and here for more from Reuters.

Be Different, photograph © Matthew / flickr

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December 11, 2015