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AstraZeneca Posts Positive Data on its Type II Diabetes Drug

Pipeline updates are highly awaited events in the pharma/biotech sector as they play an important role in deciding whether or not to invest in a particular company. These updates provide information on experimental drugs and at times give an insight into the commercial potential of the candidate once it is successfully developed and commercialized.

A couple of days back AstraZeneca (AZN) announced encouraging data from the phase III DURATION-NEO-1 study which compared the use of an investigational formulation of exenatide once-weekly suspension for autoinjection to Byetta, a twice-daily exenatide injection in adults suffering from type II diabetes who did not show sufficient glycemic control. The data from the study was presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

Approximately 377 type II diabetes patients, who were not achieving sufficient reduction in HbA1c (an indicator of glucose level in the blood) with diet and exercise or other oral anti-diabetic medications, were enrolled in the 28-week, randomized, open-label study.

At 28 weeks it was found that exenatide once-weekly suspension for autoinjection provided greater mean reductions in HbA1c compared to Byetta. The study met its primary endpoint of non-inferiority.

Our Take

As per data provided by the International Diabetes Federation (:IDF), more than 382 million people suffer from diabetes worldwide. This number is expected to increase to 592 million by 2035. Type II diabetes accounts for most (approximately 90-95%) of all diabetes cases, as per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Thus, the type II diabetes market is very lucrative.

If approved, the new once-weekly formulation of exenatide suspension for autoinjection provides type II diabetes patients with a more convenient treatment option over Byetta’s twice-daily dosing.

However, we are concerned about the increasing competition in the type II diabetes market. This year alone GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Tanzeum and Eli Lilly and Company’s (LLY) Trulicity were approved for type II diabetes among others. Both Tanzeum and Trulicity are administered once a week.

AstraZeneca carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A better-ranked stock in the health care sector is Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD) carrying a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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