Novo Nordisk pulls insulin from Greece

By | 31 May, 2010

According to the BBC, everyone’s favourite pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk is withdrawing its insulin products – including Levemir & NovoRapid – from Greece after the Greek government ordered a 25% price cut in all medicines due to their current financial difficulties. You can read Aunty Beeb’s full article here:

Being evil, I always like to stick up for the capitalist overlord – after all Big Pharma is a huge business, it’s not a lovely, fluffy, ickle-wickle charity. But if I were a Greek diabetic I would find this move by Novo Nordisk somewhat unnerving. It’s unlikely that we’ll see pancreatically-challenged hoards dying the streets – there are other insulins available after all and I expect grey imports of Novo Nordisk products into Greece will flourish – but it does represent a reduction in choice of the insulins that are available. This is obviously not good.

It remains to be seen whether the other members of Big Pharma will follow suit and, if so, it’s rather disconcerting for all of us with broken pancreases. I don’t know about you but I find the thought of my insulin being withdrawn from sale somewhat unpleasant – after all we do all rely on it to live and I, personally, quite like living.

So it’s something I think we should all watch closely. And immediately start stocking up on our life-giving insulin! And keeping our stashes under (refrigerated) lock and key; and nailing rough pieces of timber over our doors and windows; guarding our supplies while clutching – sweaty, watchful and paranoid – a loaded shotgun!

However, it’s not all bad for Greek diabetics – there is a ray of sunshine amongst these gloomy clouds; the BBC reports that Novo Nordisk is making glucagen available for free. Which will be really very useful in bringing those high blood sugar levels down. Mmmm.

BBC article

18 thoughts on “Novo Nordisk pulls insulin from Greece

  1. Hilary

    Nice one BBC: “People with diabetes in Greece have warned that some could die as a result of this action.” That must really cheer them up…

  2. Rebecca Morgan

    What I like best is the way they refer to insulin being an “anti-diabetes drug” ………………..hmmmmmm!!!!!

  3. Scott S

    I am certainly the last one to defend any pharmaceutical company (Novo Nordisk, especially, as the company’s ethical standards are substandard IMHO) BUT … they aren’t leaving Greek type 1s without insulin, only their costly, patent-protected insulin analogues and costly pen injection devices. Rest assured that vials Novolin R and N will continue to be sold in Athens and elsewhere in Greece if the media is correct. The reality is that Novo Nordisk has been extremely aggressive in raising prices in recent years, in fact, much of the company’s profits have not been due to increased sales but higher prices in recent quarters, in spite of an overall deflationary economic environment in much of the world. The company is taking a stand that they will not be bullied into cutting prices. I would expect this company to be a bit smarter from a PR perspective, but the bigger question we should be asking is if the insulin market was truly competitive, whether one company could get away with a stance like this??! I sincerely hope that the startups that are planning to enter this field, including U.S.-based Biodel, Inc. (with significant ops in Germany), Canada-based Generex, U.S.-based MannKind, as well as some others that are further behind but still working on products including U.S.-based Halozyme Therapeutics, Thermalin Diabetes and SmartCells, Inc. will aggressively compete with this lazy, fat and greedy oligopoly so that this type of economic behavior is no longer possible.

  4. Mike

    @teloz Novo Nordisk is a Danish company, but I’m sure they are equally nice, plus they sell nice bacon.. 🙂

    If one was to put our business cap on, I feel that despite being an aggressive move by Novo Nordisk, it is one I can understand. As it stands it really is not their fault that Greece is in the mess that it is.

    However, from a biased point of view and yep I use NovoRapid, I would be extremely worried if it was being withdrawn and I pray that this move does not set a precedent in the coming months.

    I feel that Novo Nordisk’s action is wholly irresponsible and they are just as bad as the Greek government. One does hope that this will not affect other parts of Europe especially Spain! 🙂

    Right I’m off to set up my novorapid and levemir export business and check to see how much novorapid I have in the fridge! Bye…

    1. Hairy Gnome

      @Mike Danish; Norwegian… Norwegian; Danish… pretty much interchangeable really, after all, it’s only a line on the map that separates ’em! 😉

  5. Tim Post author

    @teloz – yeah, Jonny Foreigners south of the White Cliffs of Dover are all the same, dammit!

    1. Annette A

      Umm, Scandinavia is north of Dover? (And add the Swedes to that list – all very happy to buy British companies, strip ’em bare, then ‘We’re very sad to have to move R&D to ‘low cost countries”. Yeah right.)

  6. Tim Post author

    @sstrumello – I agree with your point that a bit more competition in the marketplace would be welcome. Some of the new start ups which you mention are looking interesting – greater competition and choice are always good for us consumers.

  7. Mike

    @sstrumello & @tim

    Agree with you guys that competition can only be a good thing. That said, the path for these startups must be quite challenging especially if some of pharma giants delay the process the new companies have to go through to get their products through to us.

  8. Scott S

    I cannot speak about the EMEA’s approval process, but I did write about these insulin startups back in January. Catch my post at for more.

  9. Tim Post author

    @sstrumello – thanks for reminding me about your article – I read it at the time, it’s a good one!

  10. Scott S

    I used to live in Helsinki, Finland … it’s a bit further north than Dover!

  11. Pingback: The Business of Diabetes: Is Novo Nordisk’s Pullback from Greece Really A Greek Tragedy? « despre diabet

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