Recently, Novo Nordisk made an announcement that they were shutting down their AERx inhaled insulin program because inhaled fast-acting insulin, as it currently exists, “does not offer significant clinical or convenience benefits over injections of modern insulin,” said president and CEO, Lars R. Sorenson. The company said on a conference call the evening of the announcement that it would refocus its efforts in the inhalation market on long-acting insulin as well as GLP-1 therapies.
We think that says a lot about the #1 insulin manufacturers hope and plans for GLP-1 and that it is one more note that resonates for the category. GLP-1 has been praised for its simplicity – Novo Nordisk has one GLP-1 compound, liraglutide, in development for diabetes. It has worked on this for many years and is now finished with Phase 3 trials so it will likely be just a matter of time before that goes to the FDA.
The plus side of this is that Novo Nordisk seems to have taken strong lessons from Pfizer, who recently discontinued its inhaled product, Exubera – and possibly done some deeper research into what type 2 patients actually want: simpler therapy options than currently exist.
To put this in perspective, we’d say that Novo Nordisk, insulin giant extraordinaire, has made such a strong statement regarding mealtime inhaled insulin – but it is also fair to say that its program was not as advanced as Mannkind’s or that of Eli Lilly/Alkermes. With this announcement, in our view, it is letting the other companies continue to make the investment and it will stand aside. Its statement that it will develop long acting inhaled insulin and GLP-1 was interesting – we assume that new compounds are needed for these – they are said to be very early stage and will reach human clinical trials in a year or two. A lot can happen in that period and if there is good news for the category, Novo Nordisk can jump back in and speed the research.
Time will tell – we’re very happy about the extensive patient reseach Novo Nordisk says it did to get to this decision and we’ll be looking forward to watching its research.