Novo Nordisk CEO Sees Limited Scope for U.S. Price Increases

  • Main growth driver will be introduction of new products
  • Payers demanding rising rebates as drugs near patent expiries

Novo Nordisk A/S expects that raising prices in the U.S. will become more challenging and and is banking on the introduction of a key new drug this month to grow in the world’s biggest pharmaceutical market.

Chief Executive Officer Lars Rebien Soerensen says the the Bagsvaerd, Denmark-based drugmaker has seen a change in the environment in the U.S. List price increases there will be “very limited” and will likely be offset by demands for rebates by payers, he told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.

Novo, the world’s largest maker of insulin, reported fourth-quarter earnings that missed analysts’ estimates on Wednesday as it spent more to promote new drugs and one of its top three products suffered from competition and higher rebates.

“The main driver to the top-line will be the introduction of new drugs,” he said. “Typically, in the beginning of their introductions, they require less rebates, and as they approach patent expirations, they increase over time.”

Premium Price

In Novo’s case, that means winning a premium price for its new insulin Tresiba is a priority. To that end, the company is trying to differentiate the product from competitors’. Last week, Novo said a study comparing the drug with Sanofi’s best-seller Lantus showed that Tresiba was better at lowering rates of abnormally low blood sugar events, known as hypoglycemia. Still, the difference is modest and it’s unclear whether the benefit will be recognized by payers in discussions on reimbursement, according to Jo Walton, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG.

In China, which holds “very big potential” in the long term, business is also tough at the moment, according to Soerensen. Slowing economic growth is leading to changes in government health policies to curb spending, and increasing competition from global rivals like Sanofi and Eli Lilly & Co. as well as from local manufacturers are damping Novo’s growth there, he said.

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