Novo chief can stand the heat on drug bargaining

Novo Nordisk ($NVO) CEO Lars Sorensen plans to cycle 105 miles across Death Valley in the coming days, and it's not the first time. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, Sorensen's desert cycling isn't nearly as demonstrative of his toughness as his recent actions in Southern Europe.

Unhappy with new, 25%-plus discounts on Novo's newer drugs in Greece, he held them off the market. Greece eventually agreed to smaller price reductions. When the Spanish government wouldn't meet his minimum price for Novo's Victoza, he was "close to not being able to launch." After an extra round of negotiations, Spain gave in.

Sorensen has drawn fire from some patients and advocates for his hard line on the economics of insulin sales--but he says the blame should fall on the government officials whose poor financial management has forced them to cut back on healthcare. "I think actually it ought to be the government who faces the patients and talks to the patients about why we cannot afford to buy the products that you have been used to getting because we didn't manage our finances well enough," he told the WSJ.

Sorensen figures that government cost-cutting moves will end up putting modern insulins out of reach for many in Southern Europe. Already, cutbacks have eaten into Novo's growth, the WSJ notes. The company has high hopes for Victoza, however, and a new drug awaiting regulatory approval.

- see the WSJ piece