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Novo Nordisk's Q2 earnings drop 7%, but new diabetes drugs to offer relief

Novo Nordisk A/S is banking on its new diabetes drugs to drive sales growth after posting a 7% drop in second-quarter earnings.

The Denmark-based group's net profit declined to 9.60 billion Danish kroner, but the full-year outlook was raised with sales expected to grow by 4% to 6% at constant exchange rates.

Novo Nordisk, the world's largest maker of insulin medicines, booked a 10% year-over-year increase in second-quarter sales to 30.04 billion kroner. Sales in the diabetes and obesity segment totaled 25.24 billion kroner, also up 10% year over year.

Sales for once-a-week type 2 diabetes medicine Ozempic, or semaglutide, which launched in early 2018, reached 3.75 billion kroner during the first half.

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Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen

Source: Novo Nordisk

The Danish company is also making preparations to launch its oral formulation of semaglutide. CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said during an earnings call held Aug. 9 that the company will position its oral semaglutide in all categories, for patients who need early-stage treatment and for those who get effective treatment from tablets versus injections.

Pending U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, the oral formulation of semaglutide, which eliminates the need for patients to give themselves needles, is expected to challenge the market share of oral Jardiance and the injection Trulicity — diabetes therapies developed by the company's Indianapolis-based competitor Eli Lilly and Co.

Highlighting the company's "constructive dialogue" with the FDA and the U.S. regulator's trend of making decisions six months after the submission, oral semaglutide is on track for its Sept. 20 target action date for the type 2 diabetes indication, Novo's chief science officer, Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, said during the earnings call.

The FDA's decision on Ozempic's expanded use to reduce cardiovascular risk in adult patients with type 2 diabetes is also expected to be on time — 10 months after the filing of a supplemental new drug application, which is in January 2020, Thomsen added.

Novo Nordisk initiated four late-stage studies of Ozempic and oral semaglutide during the second quarter. The clinical studies are evaluating the two diabetes medicines in type 2 diabetes with serious complications, such as cardiovascular disease; diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease caused by high blood sugar levels leading to blood vessel damages in the retina; and chronic kidney disease.

US insulin pricing pressures

Novo Nordisk — together with fellow insulin-makers Eli Lilly and France's Sanofi — remain the subject of insulin pricing probes by U.S. lawmakers. Earlier in August, the three companies said they had received subpoenas in July from the New York attorney general's office regarding the pricing and sale of their insulin products.

Jørgensen acknowledged the need "for something to be done" but noted the difficulty of gaining consensus in "getting anything done" given the complexity of the U.S. healthcare system.

When asked whether Novo Nordisk would be meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump during his upcoming visit to Denmark, the CEO said he had no knowledge yet on plans for a meeting.