Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk profits jump in diabetes scourge

Pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, the world's leading insulin provider, on Wednesday reported a six percent jump in net profit in the first quarter, as the global onslaught of diabetes continued to grow.

Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk profits jump in diabetes scourge
File photo: Linda Kastrup/Ritzau Scanpix

The group saw its net profit grow to 10.7 billion kroner (1.44 billion euros) even as its sales decreased by five percent in Danish kroner year-on-year, reflecting a depreciation of the US dollar.

Novo Nordisk, which holds 46 percent of the world's insulin market share, is performing well thanks to a global diabetes scourge.

According to the World Health Organization, the number of people with diabetes has soared from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.

The global prevalence of diabetes among adults has nearly doubled during that time, to 8.5 percent.

WHO has estimated 1.6 million deaths around the world were directly caused by diabetes in 2015, while another 2.2 million deaths were linked to high blood glucose in 2012.

For 2018, Novo Nordisk expects sales to grow by three to five percent in local currency, compared with two to five percent as previously announced.

The vast majority — 84 percent — of the company's sales were in diabetes medication, including the flagship Tresiba insulin drug and Victoza, which is similar to insulin.

The rest came from treatments for haemophilia and growth hormones, for which Novo Nordisk saw its sales decrease by three and 10 percent respectively.

During the same period, the European and Japanese authorities granted the drugmaker authorisation for Ozempic, its new medication for type-2 diabetes.

The treatment was launched in the United States in February.

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Novo Nordisk sees increased profits despite pandemic

Denmark's Novo Nordisk, the world's number one producer of insulin, on Wednesday reported an eight percent bump to net profits in 2020 despite the pandemic leading to a drop in new patients.

Novo Nordisk sees increased profits despite pandemic
Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

In line with analysts' expectations, the company recorded an annual net profit of 42.1 billion Danish kroner (5.6 billion euros).

Revenue came in at 126.9 billion kroner, up four percent compared to a year earlier, not counting currency effects, driven by sales of GLP-1 products for treating diabetes.

According to Novo Nordisk, the company claimed 47.2 percent of the global market for insulin in November 2020, and 39.4 percent of the US market, which is the drugmaker's single largest market.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that there are over 425 million diabetics in the world, a number expected to top 629 million by 2045 as changing diets and lifestyles provoke the condition whereby the effectiveness of naturally produced insulin is reduced and people cannot convert sugar in their bloodstream for use as energy, causing health problems such as heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease.

However, only half of people with diabetes are currently diagnosed and of those only half are receiving treatment, according to the IDF, which says an estimated four million people die from the disease and the health complications it causes every year.

The Covid-19 pandemic cut into the number of people receiving help, according to Novo Nordisk.

“During the period of social distancing implemented in many markets, fewer new patients are initiating treatment,” said the company.

Novo Nordisk also develops and markets treatments for haemophilia and growth disorders, where sales fell by four percent and increased by six percent respectively, not counting currency effects.

Sales of its anti-obesity medicines, mainly Saxenda, increased by three percent.

In 2021, Novo Nordisk expects sales to grow by five to nine percent and operating profit to increase by four to eight percent.

In the early hours of trading on the Copenhagen stock exchange, shares in Novo Nordisk were up 4.6 percent.

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