The results of two large studies, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, eased investor concerns over the class known as DPP-4 inhibitors; which includes Onglyza from Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca; Nesina from Sanofi; and Januvia and Janumet from Merck. All of the drugs work by blocking the DPP-4 enzyme, which promotes the release of insulin, a protein that controls blood sugar levels. Drugs in the class had combined sales of $4.5 billion last year.
More than 350 million people worldwide are estimated to have diabetes, according to the World Health Organization. New treatments like the DPP-4 class of drugs have helped make diabetes treatments the fourth best-selling group of drugs, behind drugs for cancer, pain and high blood pressure. Since 2008, sales of diabetes medications have risen more than 56 percent to $42.4 billion. That’s more than twice as fast as the overall prescription drug market, which has grown 20 percent to $962 billion.