Denmark’s Novo Nordisk sets up insulin production line in Iran

Danish company Novo Nordisk, the world's top insulin-maker, has unveiled a production line of the drug in Iran, the country’s health minister said on Monday.

Denmark’s Novo Nordisk sets up insulin production line in Iran
Novo Nordisk offices in Bagsværd near Copenhagen. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Saeed Namaki inaugurated the plant's production line, located in Alborz province, via video conference, the government website reported.

“Today we witness the inauguration of one of the most important projects since the (Islamic) revolution with the joint investment of Iran and Denmark,” he said.

Namaki expressed hope that Iran could soon become a “drug distribution and production centre” for the Middle East.

The Danish pharmaceuticals giant has sold its products in Iran since 2005 through its subsidiary, Novo Nordisk Pars.

It signalled its intention to construct the 70 million euro facility in 2015 and said it would take five years to complete.

That announcement followed an agreement reached between Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States in the same year, promising Iran sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear programme.

But the deal has been on life support since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord and reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018, dashing hopes for foreign investment in the country.

Drugs and medical equipment are technically exempt from the US sanctions, but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process purchases for fear of incurring large penalties in the United States.

According to the head of Iran's food and drug administration, Iranian diabetic patients require 800,000 insulin pens per month.

“Procuring insulin is significantly foreign currency-intensive and is made harder during the difficult time of sanctions,” Mohammadreza Shanesaz told Mehr news agency.

Novo Nordisk has promised to save Iran 25 million euros in the first year and 45 million euros in the second after production starts, he added.

Iran's economy has slumped since the reimposition of sanctions targeting its vital banking and oil sectors, leading to rising inflation and a significantly devalued currency.

READ ALSO: Novo Nordisk pledges insulin supply for Britain

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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.

READ ALSO: Novo Nordisk cuts donations to US politicians