Dangerous Strategy

Dangerous Strategy

According to a study conducted by the Steno Diabetes Center in Denmark the risk of cancer in people using insulin decreases over time. A press release issued by the Center states;


“The study confirms a well established link between diabetes and cancer. This increased incidence was especially evident in the first years after diagnosis but decreased over time. The increased risk of cancer was most pronounced in people using insulin and the study showed that for the risk was highest at the start of insulin treatment and decreased over time.”


It should be noted that the Steno Diabetes Center is owned by Novo Nordisk (NYSE:NVO) and is non-profit organization.


Although it may just a strange coincidence Diabetic Investor has learned that Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE:SNY) the makers of Lantus, the world’s number one selling insulin, has cancelled a scheduled a training session that was scheduled for Monday September 27 and that a webinar on their short-acting insulin Apidra that was supposed to take place yesterday was also canceled.


Some may recall the studies published in Diabetologia, the Journal of the EASD, which appeared to link Lantus to cancer. Thankfully these controversial studies were debunked when the diabetes research community rose to defend Lantus. Although it was never publicly mentioned, many believed that Novo Nordisk was the driving force behind the scenes and pushed for the publication of these controversial studies. While no one wishes to go on the record, more than once Diabetic Investor heard from many who believed that Novo’s quick and thorough response to the publication of these studies was just a little too quick and too thorough to be a coincidence.


Back when this issue came to light Diabetic Investor noted that Novo was pursuing a dangerous strategy in their attempt to blunt Sanofi’s dominance in the long-acting insulin segment. We also see this latest study as a continuation of this very dangerous strategy. The studies published in Diabetologia were bad enough but many will use this study as another reason patient’s should not start insulin therapy. As sure as night follows day, the mainstream media will not bother to read the entire study but will go for the banner headlines saying there is an association between insulin use and cancer. The only saving grace may be this is the same day we learned the fate of another just as controversial diabetes treatment, Avandia.


Diabetic Investor knew the battle Novo and Sanofi would be a battle of heavyweights, especially when Sanofi has publicly stated they are gunning for Novo and want to supplant the company as the premier diabetes company in the world. We also knew there would be plenty of low blows, insults and dirty tricks exchanged between the two companies. The fact is Novo sees Sanofi allocating major resources to achieve their stated objective and feels the need to do whatever it takes, no matter how dangerous a strategy it may be, to fend off what is becoming a fierce competitor.


For their part Sanofi has spent their efforts above the nastiness as they assemble their diabetes team and formulate a strategy that will integrate all aspects of diabetes management and go well beyond just diabetes drugs and devices. Diabetic Investor suspects it’s just a matter of time before Sanofi fights fire with fire and goes after Novo. Let’s just hope Sanofi does not stoop to the scare tactics used by Novo, tactics so despicable that they would make politicians running for office blush with embarrassment. And that’s saying something this year the way mid-term elections are going.


While Novo has yet to resort to saying that executives at Sanofi practice witchcraft or are followers of the occult, it seems that anything is possible when billions of dollars and national pride are at stake. What is truly dangerous here is the effect their tactics will have on patients and the physicians that treat them. At a time when physicians are looking for alternate therapy options as a replacement for Avandia and Actos, combined with decades of data on the effectiveness of insulin therapy, Novo risks a backlash that will actually hurt their bread and butter franchise.


Diabetic Investor knew this battle between Novo and Sanofi would be a battle but we never imagined that a company as respected as Novo once was would declare all out war. As Dwight D. Eisenhower once said; “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility and its stupidity.”