Sanofi-Aventis Reports – Strong Lantus Sales

Sanofi-Aventis Reports – Strong Lantus Sales

This morning Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE:SNY) announced 2008 fourth quarter and full year results. According to a company issued press release, “Lantus®, the world’s leading insulin brand, was the biggest contributor to the Group’s top-line growth in 2008. The product achieved strong growth in all three regions: 30.8% in the United States, 16.3% in Europe and 46.2% in the “Other Countries” region. The new-generation Lantus®SoloStar® pen was a significant driver of sales growth in the United States.”

During the company’s conference call this morning they indicated that Lantus will likely become the number one brand for the company in 2009. Noting their goal is to double Lantus sales by 2012.

Looking over the company’s late stage pipeline there is AVE0010 a GLP-1 which is now in Phase III trials.

Today’s results confirm several trends that Diabetic Investor predicted long ago. First, insulin usage, particularly with type 2 patients, continues to increase. Second, insulin pens are becoming the preferred insulin delivery system. Third, the insulin market is becoming a two horse race between Sanofi and Novo-Nordisk (NYSE:NVO). Finally, to be a player in the type 2 market it’s essential to have a GLP-1.

While sales of Lantus continue to grow, Sanofi does have a hole in their insulin franchise. Unlike Novo and Lilly (NYSE:LLY), the company does not yet offer an insulin blend that combines both short and long acting insulin. Sanofi does have a short-acting insulin with Apidra® and could easily come up with a disposable insulin pen that contains a combination of Lantus and Apidra. This line extension would allow Sanofi to more effectively compete in the expanding insulin market. Additionally to fully compete in the insulin market it would be a wise move for the company to strengthen their presence in the insulin pump market. This would allow Sanofi to compete on all fronts and the fill the current holes in their insulin franchise.

Also like Novo and Lilly the company understands the importance of developing a GLP-1. Sanofi like Roche who also has a GLP-1 in their pipeline is well behind both Lilly and Novo which sets up an intriguing possibility. In an attempt to gain the upper hand in GLP-1 would the company make a play for Amylin (NASDAQ:AMLN) who we all know is in play. Sanofi certainly has the right pieces in place should they make a run at Amylin. With Byetta and Byetta LAR as part of their portfolio Sanofi could become the dominate force in diabetes and make a serious run at Novo for worldwide leadership. This move would deal a serious blow to Lilly effectively relegating them to an also-ran status in the diabetes market.

Going forward one thing is certain; things are heating up in the diabetes market.