NOVARTIS TIES UP WITH USV TO MARKET ITS ANTI-DIABETIC PRODUCT GALVUS

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NOVARTIS (India) has tied up with USV, a leading healthcare company, to sell its anti-diabetic product Galvus, in a bid to compete with Merck’s Januvia, for a share of the Indian anti-diabetic market that is estimated at about Rs 1,672 crore. Novartis will be pitching this against Januvia by pricing it lower, say people familiar with the development.

Galvus is a DPP-IV inhibitor and is an oral anti-diabetic agent for type 2 diabetes. Unlike insulin therapy, DPP-IV inhibitors work by enhancing the body’s own ability to lower blood sugar levels. Novartis received approval to market Galvus in Europe in February this year and is the second DPP-IV inhibitor to secure regulatory approval in Europe, after Januvia.

According to the arrangement between Novartis and USV, Novartis would market Galvus in the metros, while USV would sell it in tier-II and tier-III cities. “Novartis is entering the market two years after Merck. This collaboration with USV is to try and capture market share and make up for lost time,” said the sources.

Merck’s Januvia is currently priced at Rs 42 while Novartis would be pricing Galvus at Rs 38. When contacted, Novartis vice-chairman Rajit Shahani neither confirmed nor denied the news. “The diabetes market in India is large and Novartis wants to have a sizeable share of that segment. We are looking at several opportunities to make that happen,” said Mr Shahani said. USV declined to comment on the collaboration.

Galvus was initially to be approved by the FDA shortly after Januvia was approved, but the FDA asked for additional safety data. Safety concerns about liver enzyme levels cause regulators to reject approval for Novartis’ product twice, allowing Merck to beat it to the market with Januvia in October 2006. Earlier this year, Novartis CEO had said that it had “stepped back” from developing Galvus in the US. According to industry, Merck’s Januvia made Rs 3.4 crore, while Novartis’ Galvus contributed Rs 20 lakh to the overall Indian pharmaceutical market, as of September 2008.

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