Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Upscale Insulin Gets a Shot

Novo Nordisk’s anytime variety may cost up to 30 percent more

Drugs to treat diabetes, mostly injectable insulin, have become a $34 billion annual business crowded with manufacturers of relatively similar products. Novo Nordisk wants to stand out from the pack. Following the example of consumer product companies, the Danish drugmaker is betting that it can add product enhancements to basic insulin and command higher prices in wealthier nations. Explains Chief Executive Officer Lars Sørensen, pounding his desk for emphasis: “A country like the U.S. ought to be able to offer people the most modern insulins and not giving them Third World insulins.”

Novo Nordisk, which gets half its $11.1 billion sales from insulin, this year is seeking U.S. and European regulatory approval for its newest treatment, degludec, in a bid to unseat Sanofi’s Lantus as the world’s best-selling diabetes treatment. Sørensen says degludec is “the fundamental part” of a strategy to boost Novo Nordisk’s sales by shifting patients in developed nations from older, cheaper forms of insulin that must be taken just before mealtimes to more expensive chemically altered versions that are absorbed more slowly and act longer.