Global diabetes care giant Novo Nordisk sees China as a top market as its graying population and hastened medical reforms entail expanding treatment to a huge patient population with unmet needs.
Chinese people are getting richer thanks to the rapid progress of urbanization, but an aging population and unbalanced lifestyles also pose a rising challenge in diabetes growth, said Maziar Mike Doustdar, executive vice president of international operations at Novo Nordisk.
The number of Chinese people with diabetes has topped 110 million, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
China is Novo Nordisk's largest market outside the United States, expanding about 8 percent year on year in 2018, a "healthy growth rate" for the market with the world's largest diabetes population, according to Doustdar.
Since setting up its first China office in Beijing 25 years ago, Novo Nordisk has been steadily expanding its local presence, opening a manufacturing plant in Tianjin in 1995, and a research and development (R&D) center in Beijing in 1997, the first multinational pharmaceuticals firm to launch an R&D center in China.
The company has also included five Chinese cities, the largest number by one nation, in its "Cities Changing Diabetes" program, a global initiative designed to reverse the high prevalence of diabetes in cities by working together with partners including the government, health care professionals, and academics, to promote medical education and healthy lifestyles, according to Christine Zhou, president of Novo Nordisk China.
"Chinese governments at all levels attach great importance to diabetes treatment and education. Public awareness is rising, but there is still much work to do given the size of the potential patients," Zhou added.
Doustdar said he is impressed by the Chinese government's emphasis on quality and innovation and has seen faster approval of new drugs such as its new generation ultra-long duration basal insulin thanks to accelerating medical reforms.
"China is good at thinking long-term, as evidenced by the 'Healthy China 2030' blueprint. We love this as it makes it easier for pharmaceuticals to develop according to plans and be partners to achieve win-win outcomes and benefit patients," Doustdar said.
The intellectual property rights protection has also been improved, and Novo Nordisk is excited to work with local partners as China is one of the globe's most vibrant biotech markets with growing capital and R&D investment, he added.
The company's R&D center in Beijing is establishing an open innovation platform to support drug R&D collaboration to upgrade the firm's innovation model in China.