COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Novo Nordisk's type 2 diabetes treatment Ryzodeg has proved effective in providing good blood sugar control with fewer injections than a so-called basal-bolus treatment, according to new data from a late-stage study.
Ryzodeg combines Tresiba, Novo Nordisk's great hope for future growth, with insulin aspart, a man-made form of insulin, also known as NovoRapid, in a single pen injector.
Novo Nordisk, the world's biggest insulin maker, has launched Ryzodeg commercially in Mexico. Analysts have estimated it has blockbuster potential which could mean sales in the billions of dollars in years to come.
The study, unveiled at a meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Vienna on Thursday, compared Ryzodeg with basal-bolus treatment, which in this case was Novo's Tresiba and two to four injections of Novo's NovoRapid.
After 26 weeks, both patient groups achieved good blood sugar control but the group taking Ryzodeg needed fewer injections and had fewer incidents of dangerously low sugar levels.
The basal-bolus regimen for treating type 2 diabetes involves taking a longer-acting form of insulin to keep blood sugar levels stable through periods of fasting and separate injections of shorter-acting mealtime insulin to prevent rises in blood sugar levels.
"Patients currently using basal-bolus regimens may need to take up to four daily injections, which can be a great burden and very inconvenient," Dr Helena Rodbard, the study's lead investigator and endocrinologist in Rockville, MD, USA, said.
"Ryzodeg is a new treatment option which provides proven glycaemic (blood sugar) control, with fewer injections and reduced rates of hypoglycaemia (dangerously low sugar levels) compared to basal-bolus regimens," Rodbard said.
Combination therapies for type 2 diabetes are becoming increasingly common as patients continually require additional medicines as the disease progresses.
Complications from diabetes caused by failing to keep blood sugar under control can be serious and may include heart disease, stroke, blindness or kidney disease.
With diabetes affecting 382 million people worldwide and the number of cases expected to rise to 592 million by 2035, according to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease represents a huge market for pharmaceutical companies.
The Danish company, whose main rivals include Sanofi and Eli Lilly & Co, aims to increase the number of people using its drugs to 40 million in 2020 from 23 million in 2012.
Reporting by Shida Chayesteh, editing by Jane Merriman