(Adds J&J CFO comments, details on SGLT2 diabetes treatments)
By Ransdell Pierson
Oct 13 (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson said the proven ability of Eli Lilly and Co's rival Jardiance diabetes drug to save lives in a large clinical trial is a benefit that will likely be seen in the entire class of drugs, including J&J's own approved Invokana treatment.
Dominic Caruso, J&J's chief financial officer, on Tuesday gave his optimistic view of the new drug class, called SGLT2 inhibitors, during a conference call with industry analysts to discuss the company's third-quarter earnings.
Lilly last month said that a three-year study showed Jardiance slashed deaths by 32 percent in patients with type 2 diabetes at risk of heart attack and stroke - a finding that could make it a mainstay diabetes treatment.
"We do think there's a positive effect to the overall class as a result of the cardiovascular data that Lilly shared," Caruso said.
J&J expects to learn whether Invokana also saves lives by 2017, when it completes its own large cardiovascular 'outcomes' trial, showing whether its pill also prevents fatal heart attacks and strokes.
U.S. regulators require drugmakers to conduct large cardiovascular safety trials for diabetes drugs. The studies, which take years, are typically started long before the medicines are actually approved. The safety studies are also able to determine unexpected benefits of a medicine.
Global sales of Invokana almost doubled in the quarter to $340 million, making it by far the market leader and putting the new medicine on track to become a blockbuster product. Invokana in 2013 became the first approved member of the SGLT2 class in the United States, followed in 2014 by Jardiance and AstraZeneca Plc's Farxiga.
The drug class works by increasing excretion of excess blood sugar from the kidneys. The drugs have also been associated with slight reductions in blood pressure and body weight, factors which researchers say could not have alone accounted for the surprisingly robust survival benefit seen in Jardiance's large study.
But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May warned that SGLT2 inhibitors can cause a dangerous buildup of acid in the bloodstream, called ketoacidosis.
Louise Mehrota, J&J's head of investor relations, said on the conference call that Invokana sales have grown sharply despite the FDA warning and that ketoacidosis had only been seen in about 0.1 percent of patients who took Invokana in late-stage trials.
(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson in New York; Editing by Bill Rigby)