ECONOMY

Sick of budget cuts, drug company pulls products

Denmark’s Novo Nordisk, the world’s biggest maker of insulin, has pulled the majority of its products off Greek shelves after a recent government decision to pay less for drugs, creating the risk of a severe shortage of medicine for hundreds of thousands of Greek diabetes sufferers. Olympios Papadimitriou, general manager of Novo Nordisk Hellas, said the company has withdrawn 17 of its 25 products after the government decided in early May to pay 24 percent less for its products as part of broader efforts to cut budget spending. «We can’t operate under these conditions,» said Papadimitriou, arguing that the move would result in losses for the company. Novo Nordisk Hellas, operating in Greece for 20 years, controls 50 percent of the local insulin market. In 2009, it reported almost flat turnover growth of 45.6 million euros after sales expanded at a pace of just over 10 percent for several years. Accepting the lower prices creates the risk that other governments may follow in Greece’s footsteps, threatening international operations, said Mike Rulis, corporate vice president of corporate communications at Novo Nordisk. «The cuts could trigger price decreases in Europe, Turkey and Brazil,» he said. In a bid to help avoid shocks to the market and provide patients with time to seek alternatives, Novo Nordisk has offered to supply its products free of charge for the «immediate future.» The offer, however, does little to ease concerns among Greece’s estimated 850,000 diabetes sufferers, who believe they have been caught in the middle of financial crossfire between the drug company and the government. «We are being held hostage,» said Golfo Gemistou of the Panhellenic Federation of People with Diabetes, which fears that more insulin providers may adopt a similiar exit strategy.