Novo Nordisk pioneers healthcare solutions towards a sustainable future

Novo Nordisk has charted an impressive journey in healthcare and remains driven to achieve even more groundbreaking advancements in the future of healthcare.

DIABETES, a chronic ailment stemming from insufficient insulin—a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels— was once a serious life-threatening condition.

All this changed in 1923 when Danish companies Novo Terapeutisk Laboratorium and Nordisk Insulinlaboratorium independently commercialised the production of insulin.

With the mass availability of insulin, diabetes was no longer a death sentence and life expectancy improved dramatically. Both companies eventually merged in 1989 to become Novo Nordisk A/S.

This year marks a century of Novo Nordisk's commitment to enhance the lives of millions worldwide by driving change to defeat serious chronic diseases, building upon the heritage in diabetes.

Celebrating a century of breakthroughs

“We have been driving change for better health since 1923, translating the unmet medical needs of people living with serious chronic diseases into innovative medicines and delivery systems,” says Novo Nordisk Pharma Malaysia vice-president and general manager Serdar Kizilcik.

At the helm of Novo Nordisk Pharma Malaysia is vice president and general manager Serdar Kizilcik, a seasoned veteran with an impressive 25-year tenure in the pharmaceutical industry.At the helm of Novo Nordisk Pharma Malaysia is vice president and general manager Serdar Kizilcik, a seasoned veteran with an impressive 25-year tenure in the pharmaceutical industry.

Over the span of 100 years, the company has produced a range of innovative solutions to tackle diabetes and other serious chronic diseases. Landmark innovations include the discovery of longer-acting insulin (NPH) in 1946, which reduces the number of insulin injections needed, and the world’s first insulin pen, introduced by Novo Nordisk in 1985.

“A century of breakthroughs in health has shown us that progress is only made possible by driving change,” says Kizilcik, who adds that the company is constantly discovering and developing innovative biological medicines and making them accessible to patients throughout the world.

Tackling contemporary health challenges

Despite ground-breaking research and innovations, the battle is an ongoing one that presents new challenges, in the landscape of the fast-changing world.

“It's no longer merely a battle against surviving diseases; instead, the focus is on ensuring longer and healthier lives for all,” notes Kizilcik.

He shares that the company’s approach to addressing diabetes and other chronic diseases involves pioneering scientific breakthroughs, expanding access to medicines, implementing preventative measures and seeking cures.

Propelling forward

Innovation, perseverance and determination have long characterised Novo Nordisk’s past, and remain a vital element in the step forward.

“The possibilities in modern medical discovery are extraordinary, and we are investing in scientific innovation across more therapy areas than ever before.

“This includes diabetes, where our work began, but also obesity, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and rare endocrine and blood disorders, including sickle-cell disease,” says Kizilcik.

In Malaysia, the company is also active in clinical trials to support developments of new therapies and treatments since 1999.

In addition to novel treatments and innovative delivery devices, the product pipeline for potential treatment encompasses once-weekly and glucose-sensitive insulins, GLP-1 analogues, and cutting-edge approaches like cell therapy, RNA interference and gene editing.

“Such new approaches will enable us to deliver potentially life-altering treatments to patients with conditions such as chronic heart disease and Parkinson’s disease,” adds Kizilcik.

Malaysia’s health landscape

For Novo Nordisk – Malaysia presents a new set of challenges. Based on the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019, there are approximately 3.9 million Malaysians living with diabetes.

This rising prevalence of diabetes and obesity in Malaysia, with one in five adults facing diabetes and half considered overweight or obese, poses a significant threat to future generations' health and prosperity.

“Medical intervention alone cannot solve the rising health challenges of this magnitude,” says Kizilcik, who attributes the rise in figures to macroenvironment factors such as urbanisation, socioeconomic inequalities, as well as modern sedentary lifestyles.

He opines that implementing preventive measures can yield positive outcomes.

“By applying our knowledge, science and reach, and in collaboration with others, we can strengthen disease prevention and early intervention, helping millions of people live fuller, healthier lives,” he stresses.

CSR initiatives for patient well-being

Novo Nordisk, beyond its vital role in diabetes care, is committed to enhancing the lives of patients with chronic diseases.

Kizilcik highlights that millions worldwide are struggling to access healthcare due to financial constraints or service unavailability.

In response to that, the company is looking at ways to step up its efforts for vulnerable patients in every country Novo Nordisk operates in, including Malaysia.

“The aim is to improve the affordability of medicines by partnering with various stakeholders including policymakers, healthcare professionals, nongovernmental organisations and patients, to drive change,” he says.

One of its landmark initiatives is the Changing Diabetes in Children (CDiC) programme, a public-private global initiative that is active in 28 countries, with Malaysia being the latest addition.

With the aim of No Child Should Die from Diabetes as the theme, CDiC provides comprehensive care and education for children and young adults below 25 years old with type 1 diabetes, involving training for healthcare professionals and clinic establishment. Currently benefiting over 41,000 patients, the goal is to reach 100,000 by 2030.

CDiC Malaysia was launched this year during World Diabetes Day in November with the Malaysian Endocrine and Metabolic Society and Roche as local key partners.

He adds that the five-year initiative includes patient and caregiver education, providing self-monitoring of blood glucose supplies, healthcare provider training, establishing a type 1 diabetes national registry and forming a research collaboration with Harvard University.

Commitment to a sustainable future

Novo Nordisk’s dedication and life-long work on diabetes have not steered it away from the need to establish a solid foundation for its environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

Kizilcik says that as a global company, it has a responsibility to create a more sustainable world.

The company is committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2045, with an interim target to achieve zero CO2 emissions from operations and transportation by 2030.

"To get there, we adopt a circular mindset by designing and manufacturing our products for recovery and reuse, while reshaping our business practices to minimise consumption and eliminate waste,” he says, citing the reusing plastic waste from the pen production, as an example.

In its century-long journey, Novo Nordisk has committed to defeating chronic diseases, continuously striving to enhance patients' lives.

Through innovative science, new technology platforms, and working closely with stakeholders and industrial partners, the company is dedicated to improving the lives of millions, by addressing the challenges of climate change, striving to provide essential access to healthcare, and promoting healthy environments and communities for a sustainable future.

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