The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a terrible toll around the world – but the pain has not been shared equally. People with underlying conditions have been hit disproportionately hard by the virus, a fact that makes Novo Nordisk’s purpose of driving change to defeat diabetes and other serious chronic diseases more meaningful than ever.

Today, one in 11 people in the world has diabetes and if action is not taken to bend the curve, that figure is projected to rise to one in nine by 2045. The risk posed by COVID-19 to people living with diabetes and obesity is a clear wake-up call: we must continue to do more to tackle these diseases or risk vast future damage to millions of lives, as well as to broader societies and economies.

We measure our contribution to the fight against diabetes and other serious chronic diseases in our strategic aspirations for 2025. Appropriately, after a year as unparalleled as 2020, and as the world acknowledges the hundredth anniversary of the discovery of insulin, the first of these is 'Purpose and sustainability'. Over the past year we have stepped up our commitment to our purpose by launching a new Defeat Diabetes social responsibility strategy. This sets out our ambition to accelerate the prevention of type 2 diabetes, provide access to affordable care for vulnerable patients in every country and innovate to improve lives.

Beyond defeating serious chronic diseases, we also aspire to have zero environmental impact.

In 2020, we took an important step by achieving our target of using 100% renewable power across global production – a key milestone on the road to our target of zero CO2 emissions from all operations and transport by 2030. We now also ask that by the end of the decade, our direct suppliers use only renewable power when supplying us. It has been great to see some of our largest suppliers step up and meet this target already.

Despite this encouraging progress, we can only fulfil our purpose and be respected for adding value to society if we deliver on our core contribution of scientific innovation. Thanks to a strategy of targeted investment, our scientists are currently pursuing higher levels of innovation across more therapy areas than at any point in the company’s history. Consequently, I believe we are now well-positioned for success in the short, medium and long term.

Within diabetes, we are further raising the innovation bar with the roll-out of the world’s first once-daily GLP-1 tablet, Rybelsus®, while at the same time working on novel insulins, 100 years after the discovery of the molecule. Our Research & Development (R&D) colleagues are also pursuing greater weight loss in obesity, and in 2020 they demonstrated the potential of semaglutide 2.4 mg in the STEP phase 3 clinical trial programme.

Crucially, we also broadened our technology platforms and expanded our research into adjacent disease areas in 2020 including cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and Alzheimer’s disease – areas of huge unmet medical need and a great burden for patients, families and society alike.

Our continued focus on external innovation led to the significant acquisitions of Corvidia Therapeutics and Emisphere Technologies, strengthening our positions in cutting-edge areas of cardiovascular medicine and drug delivery respectively.

Commercially, 2020 was a challenging year as lockdowns reduced the time doctors spent with their patients, leading to fewer initiations of new treatments. Despite this, we expanded our leadership position in the diabetes market in terms of value, keeping us on track to reach a share of more than one third by 2025. Diabetes sales were driven by sales of GLP-1 products (Victoza®, Ozempic® and Rybelsus®), which offset mixed market conditions for insulins. We continued to help more people living with obesity, while making progress with our ambition to secure sustained growth within our Biopharm division thanks to strong demand for our growth hormone and new haemophilia products.

I believe that our ability to meet the needs of our millions of patients during the pandemic in 2020 comes as a consequence of our crystal-clear purpose and long-established company values. We are far from done and have many more millions of patients for whom treatment is not accessible today. So now is the time to continue to invest in our people and in our organisation, creating an inclusive, diverse and safe working environment in which colleagues have equal opportunities to thrive and fulfil their potential.

Looking to the future, I am confident that our clear corporate strategy will make us a valued partner to society as the world continues on the long road to recovery from the pandemic.

In closing, I would like to thank my colleagues around the world for their agility and commitment during this most challenging of years. Special thanks must go to our partners and collaborators, without whom we could not succeed. A sincere thank you goes to our Board of Directors for their continued support and constructive challenging of the organisation. Finally, I would like to send a thank you to our shareholders for their continuous support.

 

Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen
President & Chief Executive Officer