Novo Nordisk Introduces Daily Diabetes Tablet

First Oral Formulation in the GLP-1 Class

Novo Nordisk, the world’s largest maker of injectable insulin, has received the green light from U.S. authorities to introduce the first-of-its-kind tablet version of its semaglutide diabetes drug, according to Reuters.

The Danish drug company hopes to convince doctors that Rybelsus, its new once-daily pill, will prove a different and highly effective weapon in tackling diabetes early.

More than 70% of diabetes prescriptions currently written in the United States are for oral treatments. But none are from the GLP-1 class that Novo specializes in. The GLP-1 class of drugs are considered highly effective medicines that stimulate insulin production.    

“We have only worked with around 25% of the patients so far and we see it as a breakthrough because we can now also address the tablet-based market,” Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, the company’s chief science officer told Reuters.

A study last year showed that Novo’s tablet was superior to Merck’s Januvia, in reducing both long-term, blood sugar level and weight. The other competitor in the market is Eli Lilly’s injectable, Trulicity.

“We have a very strong position if you look at the leading tablet treatments in the market,” Thomsen said.

Investors were concerned that Rybelsus would be sold more cheaply than comparable injectable treatments. But Karsten Munk Knudsen, the company’s chief financial officer, said that the monthly price for the daily tablet would be around $800, similar to Novo’s once-weekly injectable version of semaglutide, Ozempic. The company estimates sales of approximately $5.4 billion by 2026.

Thomsen said receiving U.S. approval for Rybelsus was a triumph of perseverance.

“We were laughed at when we told our peers about it,” Thomsen said of the early plans for the drug. “They thought we had eaten or smoked something weird.

The drug was named Rybelsus, Thomsen said, because it was similar to the word rebellious.

“There is a revolt against why biological drugs should always be treated through injection,” Thomsen said.

Source: Reuters, September 23