Changing Diabetes - Pharmaceutical Executive


Changing Diabetes
Novo Nordisk's Martin Soeters has a question: How can a nation that leads the world in diabetes research do such a poor job of treating it? He also thinks he has some answers.

Pharmaceutical Executive

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My American colleagues tell me that I need to be careful in the way I express myself, when I say that we don't do a good job here. But if we don't confront people in a candid way about the status of poor control and the consequences, then nothing will change.

What specifically needs to change, and how is Novo Nordisk getting involved in making sure those changes take place?

We have a long history—80 years—with diabetes. We have our own hospital; we have our own basic research. If you look at our pipeline, it's very focused on diabetes—more than 70 percent of our business is in that area.

We have tried to make a plan—we call it the National Changing Diabetes Program. We're going to roll that out to all the different associations in Washington, DC. With the program, we are highlighting all the better practices and all the activities that should be done in the area of prevention and cure.

In the area of prevention, we're working together with the President's Council and the Endocrinology Association to prevent childhood obesity. We created awareness campaigns in schools, with doctors. Our sales force goes into schools with the doctors and they talk about the prevention of childhood obesity.

Separately, we created a new Washington, D.C. office—a lobbying office—with four individuals, headed up by the chief lobbyist from the American Diabetes Association. His only task is to get diabetes high on the political agenda. A lot of doctors don't do enough educating of patients about diabetes because they cannot get it reimbursed or they cannot make enough time; they'd rather let diabetes educators handle it.

We're also working on making physical exercise mandatory in schools again. I come to the office at least once a week by bike. When I show up, the employees look at me like I'm weird. But it's important to show by example. That's something we also do with food. We used to have big cakes and other fatty foods at meetings. Now we have replaced that with fruit. If we offer meeting attendees food, we offer them something healthy.

That's the prevention piece. On the cure part, we work closely with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and with NIH. We have given unrestricted educational grants to educate family-physician residents about diabetes. So now all family-physician residents have to go to a mandatory program on diabetes, sponsored by us. Same thing for all the endocrinology and specialist fellows: They get a program on diabetes.

We also have a similar program at the American College of Physicians. We have an agreement with the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a film industry association, to do awareness programs. Nancy Reagan, Harrison Ford, and Dustin Hoffman have all participated. The entertainment industry is mobilizing itself to speak. That is helping with the awareness.

So we're doing a lot of things. Since we have such a long history, we have the commitment, we have the competencies in-house—both international and domestically. Our ambition is to be recognized for that social responsibility, to be perceived as different from what other pharmaceutical companies are doing. As a result of that, I believe Novo Nordisk will be better perceived by the doctors. That will lead to our sales people getting more time from the doctors. Doctors will see our reps more often and longer, which will allow reps to put our products in the right perspective.


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