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Novo Nordisk oral diabetes drug improves blood sugar in 1st late-stage trial

Denmark-based Novo Nordisk A/S said its oral diabetes medicine semaglutide improved the blood sugar of people with type 2 diabetes under a late-stage trial.

The first of 10 planned studies, the Pioneer 1 trial studied the medicine in 703 patients using two approaches: a primary approach that evaluated the drug's effect regardless of whether patients adhered to treatment, and a secondary, or hypothetical, approach that evaluated the drug's effect assuming people had adhered to treatment.

The trial achieved its primary objective by demonstrating that the medicine was better at improving long-term blood sugar when compared to placebo. The highest administered dose of the drug — 14 milligrams — also helped reduce 4.1 kilograms of weight on average in patients compared to 1.5 kilograms for people treated with placebo.

The treatment, which is branded as Ozempic in the U.S., was also safe and well-tolerated under the trial, with the most common side effect being nausea.

Semaglutide belongs to a class of drugs known as GLP-1 that stimulate insulin production. The fact that the oral version of the medicine requires patients to not eat for 30 minutes after taking it has raised questions about its practicality, according to Reuters.

Rivals Eli Lilly and Co. and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. are also studying an oral version of their diabetes medicine Jardiance, while Merck & Co. Inc. is doing the same for Januvia. The companies are expected to release trial results this year.