Denmark’s Novo Nordisk, the world’s largest insulin maker, said on Wednesday that its net profit rose by six per cent in the first quarter, driven by demand for its diabetes and obesity treatments.

Novo Nordisk said in a statement that it booked net profit of 12.6 billion Danish kroner (€1.7bn) in the period from January to March on stable revenue of 33.8 billion kroner. The results beat analyst forecasts for net profit of 11.8 billion kroner and revenue of 32.4bn, according to a consensus drawn up by Factset.

Novo Nordisk commands a share of just over 50 per cent in the global market for GLP-1 analogue drugs, a hormone enhancing insulin secretion. In this sector, the company saw its sales rise by 23 per cent, while sales of Rybelsus, an oral anti-diabetic drug, soared by 247 per cent.

Sales of Rybelsus, an oral anti-diabetic drug, soared by 247%

Novo Nordisk also holds a share of just over 47 per cent in the global insulin market. But in this sector, sales were impacted by a sharp drop in the price of anti-diabetics in the United States, where Novo Nordisk generates almost half its turnover.
Sales of Novo Nordisk’s anti-obesity drugs, primarily Saxenda, jumped nine per cent in the January-March period.

There were more than 463 million adults with diabetes in the world in 2019, and the number could rise to 700 million by 2045, according to estimates by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). Only half of them are currently diagnosed, and of only half of these have access to treatment.

Diabetes and its associated complications, including cardiovascular problems, kidney disease and lower limb amputations, kill 4.2 million people a year, according to the IDF.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), many diabetics struggle to access insulin because of its price despite an abundant supply. The WHO has stressed it is all the more important to tackle this crisis in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, as a high proportion of patients hospitalised with COVID-19 have diabetes.

Novo Nordisk also develops and markets treatments for haemophilia and growth disorders, where sales each grew by two per cent in the first quarter.

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