The imminent patent expiration of Sanofi’s Lantus has opened the door for Eli Lilly to increase its share of the diabetes treatment market, and the US-based company has three big weapons in its pharmaceutical arsenal, says an analyst with research and consulting firm GlobalData.

Valentina Gburcik, Ph.D., GlobalData’s Senior Analyst covering Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders, states that despite Toujeo hitting its targets in Phase III trials by showing fewer hypoglycemia events than Lantus, Sanofi will be very wary of the new triple threat posed by its competitor.

“Eli Lilly has seen successful outcomes for its Lantus biosimilar and has exhibited further proof of the superiority of its novel ultra-long-acting insulin in development, peglispro. There have also been impressive results for Eli Lilly’s once-weekly glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonist, dulaglutide, which showed superior blood glucose reductions compared with Lantus, as well as accompanying weight loss and a lower risk for hypoglycemia,” the analyst says.

According to Gburcik, Sanofi will not be surrendering its multibillion-dollar share in the market without a fight, as the French giant has managed to delay Eli Lilly’s Lantus-biosimilar launch in the US until 2016 by filing a patent infringement lawsuit, meanwhile augmenting its own drugs pipeline.

The analyst explains: “Apart from Toujeo, Sanofi is developing LixiLan, a combination of Lantus and the GLP-1 agonist Lyxumia, which is intended to further protect the Lantus franchise.

“However, this product will not be launched before 2017. This means that Novo Nordisk’s IDegLira, also an insulin/GLP-1 combination drug, will be the first-to-market product in the GLP-1/insulin combo segment, and will pave its path to domination beginning in 2015.”

A further strategic move by Sanofi to retain its diabetes market share has been to enter into a partnership with Medtronic, in which Sanofi’s insulin portfolio will be complemented by Medtronic’s experience in insulin pumps and blood glucose monitoring. Ultimately, Gburcik believes that Sanofi’s best bet will be to undercut its rivals.

“To combat the various market threats, Sanofi will most likely have to focus on competitive pricing for its products, as the company currently does not have any other innovative products in its pipeline, apart from the Lantus-franchise safeguards, Toujeo and LixiLan. If we consider the increasing cost pressures in health systems worldwide, this is probably the best strategy that the company can undertake,” concludes the analyst.