UPDATED: Novo selling Bangladeshi-made insulin after plant fires up

Novo Nordisk ($NVO) has begun selling locally manufactured insulin in Bangladesh after a multiyear joint venture bore fruit. Production of the insulin is handled by Eskayef, a Bangladeshi company that has worked with Novo since 2009 to get its production plant up to scratch.

After collaborating with Novo for three years, Eskayef now has a 45,000-square-foot plant the Danish drugmaker is happy to use for its insulin production. Novo is selling three diabetes treatments--Mixtard 30, Insulatard and Actrapid--which Eskayef manufactures at the plant in Tongi. And with the number of diabetics in Bangladesh due to double by 2030, the plant should be busy for the foreseeable future.

"The demand for insulin in Bangladesh is significant and we think the plant will be busy catering to local demand," Novo VP Maziar Mike Doustdar told The Financial Express.

Setting up the Bangladesh plant has taken a little longer than expected, pushing back the launch of local insulin by 14 months. In an email to FiercePharmaManufacturing, Doustdar attributed the delay to the time taken to bring the plant up to global standards. "The locally produced insulin in Bangladesh is of global quality, with no difference to Novo Nordisk insulin produced elsewhere in the world. To ensure top quality output, we had to implement all the global processes, perform full testing and align with many internal guidelines," Doustdar said.

But Eskayef has ambitions that stretch beyond Bangladesh. The plant built for Novo already has approval from the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration. And its chairman has spoken of a desire to bring its products to the U.S., too.

Sales were up 25% last year, and Eskayef wants to move further beyond its local rivals by ramping up exports. The company has watched peers in neighboring India explode onto the global pharma scene and now wants a piece of the action. Knowledge and technology gained through the collaboration with Novo appear to have accelerated efforts to bring production in line with global GMPs.

For Novo, the plant strengthens its ties to another emerging market for its diabetes treatments. As in China, Novo has established a strong position in Bangladesh by being among the first Western drugmakers to invest in tackling the country's rising diabetes problem. Novo now has access to Asian production plants in China, India and Bangladesh.

- here's the Financial Express interview
- check out The Daily Star's article

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional comments from Doustdar.