BETTER LIFE FOR ALL

Spain 2020 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mads W. Larsen, General Manager of Novo Nordisk Pharma Spain, on insulin products, innovation, and hope for the year to come.

Mads W. Larsen
BIOGRAPHY

Mads W. Larsen joined Novo Nordisk in Scandinavia in the marketing department in 2003. From there, he went to global marketing, where he worked in different areas, such as devices and needles, the development of projects that involved a heavy load of long-term strategic planning, and changing diabetes, a platform that supports and combines Novo Nordisk's commitment to people with diabetes and goes beyond medicine. He holds a master's in science and business administration.

How have your insulin products evolved throughout the years?
There have been some major milestones. In the beginning, it was about making the insulin as pure as possible, though over the years, we have innovated. Insulin from more than 50 years ago is still used significantly in a large part of the world, including Europe. The entire paradigm of the modern generation of insulin is to reduce complications. Insulin behaves differently in people's bodies; therefore, we have to develop insulin that can mimic the physiological profile of one's body. We are innovating by bringing new insulin that is safer and better. If we talk about national healthcare, the biggest burden is the cost of complications and not necessarily the cost of medicine. With the current working environment, many people have shifting working conditions, so having predictable insulin has a big influence on production. These are fundamental to ensure one can live a normal life while having diabetes. This is why we continue to innovate in this space because there is still room to grow in terms of offering solutions to patients.

Regarding recent innovations as Fiasp, how is this product differentiated from other products?
Fiasp is a rapid insulin that one takes during mealtimes. In the past, one had to take insulin up to 30 minutes before eating, but now they can take it up to five minutes after they eat because the insulin is rapid and normalizes their blood sugar after they eat. This is an extremely convenient factor in creating flexibility and lowers the blood sugar level. That is why it is extremely important: it helps mimic the physiological profile. This is innovative not only for type 1 diabetes, but also for patients with type 2 diabetes. It is extremely important that people can live a normal life with the growing population today. More than 13% of the Spanish population has diabetes, and many of them live with it unknowingly.

What commercial hurdles did the company face during its diversification phase?
Novo Nordisk has been great at focusing on the core business. We focus on a specific type of molecule. We are second to none in R&D because we are successful at what we are doing, and we are continuously progressing with this. We have more than 1,000 other collaborations around the world in terms of molecular development and new technologies, including with MIT. The way we look at the molecules are not that different from an R&D point of view. Saving lives and treating diabetes through innovation is a new paradigm shift in the industry. It all comes down to our stated values to cure diabetes. That is why we invest billions of euros every year in new molecules; we want to come up with a cure at Novo Nordisk. Healthcare is an issue for all countries and should be tackled globally. The Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, societies, and patient organizations ought to come together to find the right solutions for patients to have the right medications at the right time and for the right reasons. It will be a difficult task to convince policymakers and politicians to invest in the long term.

What are your objectives for the coming year in Spain?
Novo Nordisk will be a partner in delivering insulin, GLP-1, and other types of treatments for patients who need them. My goal is to move the needle to make diabetes a key priority for the authorities. The patients and society deserve better focus. It is not to take away the focus on cancer; if we look at the facts, we are simply uninvested in diabetes. The amount of amputations in Spain is extremely high because of bad control. In quality of care, it is extremely important we address this from a societal point of view.