From a patient perspective, it’s important to take insulin at the right time, says Melvin D’souza, the India-head of Novo Nordisk, referring to fears that people have in taking insulin to control their blood sugar levels.

Doctors may want to introduce insulin earlier in the treatment of a person with diabetes to prevent the illness from further deterioration and complication, says D’souza. But people still fear that taking insulin is an indication that their illness has reached its end stage, he says.

The key factor is to introduce insulin use at the right time, besides educating the patient on how to use it right, says D’souza, referring to the mismatched number of doctors to patient numbers, and the limited time the two have together. India is estimated to have about 69 million people with diabetes, the second largest in the world after China. And there are only about a lakh doctors across the country (general physicians and specialists included) to treat the illness, D’souza told BusinessLine .

Despite this, doctors have been finding an increase in the number of patients coming to their clinics, he said, referring to an eight-city study of 200 doctors done by IMRB, commissioned by the Endocrine Society of India and Novo Nordisk to mark World Health Day tomorrow (April 7). Diabetes is the theme of this year’s World Health Day, a day that marks the birth of the World Health Organisation.

About 93 per cent of the doctors who participated in the study found that there were more people coming to their clinics for diabetes and the situation in tier-1 cities was an increase of 200 per cent, he said, of the study that seeks to build awareness, improve the management of diabetes and prevent complications.

Responding to a Lancet article about two months ago that said that insulin was still beyond the reach of many with diabetes around the world, D’souza said in India Novo Nordisk had an insulin portfolio at different price points – from human insulin at Rs 5–8 for a vial a day to advanced products that were priced higher.

“More than 90 years after it was first discovered, and despite being listed as an essential medicine by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 2007, the lifesaving diabetes drug, insulin, remains very expensive and beyond the reach of many people with type 1 and 2 diabetes who need it globally,” experts said in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology Journal .

No fresh alliances

With two existing alliances in India (Torrent Pharma and Abbott), the Rs 1,000-crore Novo Nordisk does not currently find a need for new alliances, D’souza said. The crystals for the products are imported from the source at Denmark and it is formulated, filled and packed at Torrent’s plant, he said of the 25-year odd alliance. Abbott helps in distribution, an alliance that was renewed in 2005.