Novo Nordisk sees unexpected China rebound in Q2, but no word on Tresiba

Novo Nordisk

China rebounded for Novo Nordisk ($NVO) in the second quarter as human insulin sales gained pace, but executives also highlighted higher spending in the country to speed growth along.

In the Aug. 5 earnings release, Novo said sales in the standalone China region rose 10% in constant currency, easily beating the 3% gain in constant currency in a first quarter that saw human insulin sales struggle against local competition.

"Region China improved faster than expected," CEO Lars Rebien Sorensen said on the Aug. 5 call.


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Jesper Brandgaard, chief financial officer, said overall sales and distribution costs increased by 5% in constant currencies, much related to the launch of Tresiba (insulin degludec) in the U.S., while noting the increased spending was "further driven by sales force investments in international operations in China."

Novo has had success in Asia with Tresiba and other products such as Victoza (liraglutide) in Japan that boosted regional sales overall, but showed some gaps in human insulin, according to Sorensen.

"Pacific sales grew 8% in local (constant) currencies and 9% in Danish kroner," Sorensen said.

"This sales growth is mainly driven by a 23% increase in Victoza sales in local currencies, reflecting continued expansion of the GLP-1 market in Japan and Canada. Sales growth in Pacific is further driven by a continuous strong uptake of Tresiba in Japan, with the current market value share of 39% of the basal insulin segment. The growth is partly offset by a decline in overall insulin market volume in Japan and lower human insulin sales in the region."

Still, Sorensen was able to report that Tresiba in Japan has a 39% share of the basal insulin segment, an uptick from an April report of a 33% share that was said to be the best market ratio for Tresiba in the world.

But nothing was mentioned, or asked, about an updated timeline for Tresiba in China, which executives on the first quarter call said is likely years away.

- here's the release

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