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6 Nov 2013

Januvia's Q3 Performanc?e Proves Importance of Business Strategy for Type 2 Diabetes Drugs

Following what was once the rising success of Merck’s first-to-market DPP-4 inhibitor, Januvia, which achieved significant sales of $4 billion in 2012, the unexpectedly poor performance of the type 2 diabetes drug in Q3 2013 has now been announced, thanks to fierce competition between pharma 'titans' going head-to-head within an increasingly crowded marketplace, says an analyst with research and consulting firm GlobalData.


According to Valentina Gburcik, GlobalData’s Analyst covering Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disorders, the competition is becoming stronger than ever, as each wave of new therapies arrives like a tsunami, attempting to sweep competitors off the map. As most therapies within one drug class hardly differentiate from each other, and the differences between entire classes are also relatively unimpressive, business strategy behind new products now means more than anything.


One of the competitors that is currently eating away at Januvia’s patient share is Eli Lilly/BI’s Tradjenta — the third-to-market DPP-4 inhibitor, which is continuing to perform strongly in the marketplace.


Gburcik says: “Eli Lilly and BI have been adopting a different strategy from Merck by working on diversification of the diabetes portfolio, and they will soon market treatments covering every single anti-diabetes drug class. Instead of focusing on brand, Eli Lilly focuses on the most comprehensive coverage of patients’ needs, and this is certainly strengthening its relationship with payers.


“Meanwhile, Januvia’s trajectory is confirming that the blockbuster mentality is dying, and that one-size-fits-all medicines are no longer a recipe for continued success in the type 2 diabetes world.”


The higher-than-expected growth of the SGLT-2 inhibitor class is another stifling factor both for Januvia and the DPP-4 segment as a whole. Although the efficacy of this new drug class has not proven to be better than that of DPP-4, it is also not yet labeled with any negative reputation, such as the links to pancreatic cancer, associated with the DPP-4 and GLP-1 segments.


“This, and various other developments explain the general slow-down in the whole DPP-4 category, but it might well be questioned as to why Januvia’s performance is particularly affected. We believe the answer lies in the increasing competition amongst DPP-4 products themselves. Currently, there are five of these on the market, with more expected to come, so the clash of the titans is yet to continue,” the analyst concludes. 

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