Morten Vaupel
VP & Director General
Novo Nordisk
View from the Top

Prevention Can Minimize Diabetes Epidemic

Wed, 09/07/2016 - 15:57

Q: What impact has Mexico had on the company’s core global business and its plans for the market?

A: The state of obesity and diabetes in Mexico made it a core market for Novo Nordisk. The company has invested heavily in our operations in the last five to six years. This effort has been rewarded. The company has climbed from eighth or ninth in the private diabetes market to number three. Evidently this also pushed us to strengthen our position in the global diabetes market. In the last four years, we have grown in double digits and we expect to continue to do so in coming years. To do so we must continue to raise our market position. Our clients are balanced between the private and public sector but we are particularly proud to be the biggest supplier of human insulin to the public sector.

Q: On top of the government campaigns to raise awareness, what support does Novo Nordisk offer to combat diabetes?

A: As 70 percent of the population qualifies as overweight or obese, increasing numbers of diabetes cases are unavoidable. Type 2 diabetes results from several years of untreated overweight or obesity, interlinking the two issues. Therefore, overweight and obesity prevention would minimize the epidemic. We want to be a responsible partner with the public sector to raise awareness and to implement initiatives to support change. We offer medication and print publications and reports in collaboration with the Federal and Mexico City Ministry of Health. Those publications involve an annual report and magazines that explain the impact of obesity on a person’s health. It is interesting to evaluate the facts of obesity to understand why it is now considered a chronic disease instead of a lifestyle issue or simple risk factor. Our investigations even explore the financial impact of obesity on society, like the implications of Mexican investment in obesity complications.

Q: What trends do you expect will reign in the next decade in obesity and diabetes?

A: Optimistically, we hope the country has reached a peak in obesity and diabetes. Mexico has one of the youngest populations in the world and as birth rates have dropped we may see an aging generation and an increase in type 2 diabetes. Realistically however, if we break the habit among younger generations we may preempt diabetes resulting from long-term obesity. The government is dedicating sufficient attention to the issue, following the previous Minister of Health’s diabetes and obesity strategy published three years ago. President Peña Nieto supported this and simply recognizing the disease as a problem for the country has raised awareness. With education, prevention and strong treatment, Novo Nordisk can declare cautious optimism for the obesity issue facing Mexico.

Q: What are the advantages that Mexico could present to companies interested in investing in the health industry? A: Mexico is an excellent location for clinical trials. Novo Nordisk has quintupled its staff working in clinical trials in the last five years and has increased the number of trials and patients enrolled in them. We expect 2016 to close with 10 clinical trials and next year seven more are scheduled. This number will continue to increase, concentrating on private clinics that host our trials. Costs are competitive in the country and our company has invested considerably in this area in Mexico. The regulatory authorities recognize the benefits of a proportion of the local population testing a drug, as it helps them feel safer authorizing the medication.

Novo Nordisk has doubled the size of its organization in Mexico in five years, exemplifying the importance of the market for our company. Our investment in clinical trials is supported by product launches. Seven products in the pipeline to treat type 1 and 2 diabetes will likely be tested in Mexico. Some of these products, such as semaglutide, treat both diabetes and obesity. Our trials catering to obesity and diabetes are largely tested in Mexico, though we do not yet have plans to introduce hemophilia treatments to clinical trials in the country. These will play a part in our expansion plans.

Q: How does the company expect to expand in light of recent global changes to increase market penetration?

A: The peso has lost approximately 30 percent of its value against the dollar in the last year, so we ought to have increased our prices by that quantity. However, our belief that the Mexican economy is sound has meant that we will allow fluctuations and trust that the underlying economy will cause the peso to recover its value. We will keep our price developments modest as always regardless of inflation. While this will temporarily affect our bottom line, it will protect our patients from drastic price increases of medication they depend on.

Every year we launch a new compound. Our existing insulin has been on the market for 15 years, but we recently launched an update called Tresiba® that works for longer and has fewer side effects. Ryzodeg®, another release, is a fast acting drug with the basal insulin component that diabetes patients can take when they eat. This year Saxenda® was introduced to the market to target obesity and product launches are planned for items like Xultophy® next year and in 2018. This once-a-day injection has passed clinical trials. While we are the third company in the market, in the long term we hope our new products will help Novo Nordisk to lead the market.