Novo endeavors to stay ahead in U.S. market

Want to know how Novo Nordisk stole diabetes-drug market share from Eli Lilly and grew to $7.1 billion in insulin sales? Check out the Forbes take-out on the Danish company. We'll just offer the short answer here: Designer injectable insulin.

As Forbes notes, Novo got out of the diabetes-pill business to focus on injectable insulins. It went on to develop such new-and-improved insulin analogs as Novolog and Levimir, which it could sell for two to three times as much as older insulin meds. Meanwhile, in 2000, then-new CEO Lars Sorensen decided to make a big assault on the U.S. market.

That assault cost $500 million as Novo staffed up; the company now has 2,000 U.S. sales reps, up from 80 a decade ago. It now posts $2.9 billion in U.S. insulin sales, compared with Lilly's $2.1 billion.

These days, Novo insulin analogs have more competition; indeed, the company is eyeing the successful Sanofi-Aventis drug Lantus, hoping its own experimental med will prove better. But as diabetes grows by leaps and bounds--in the U.S. and increasingly in emerging markets--diabetes drugmakers have more patients to vie for, too.

- read the Forbes article