The Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region faces several healthcare challenges that emanate from a high incidence of serious risk factors including smoking, hypertension, obesity, dyslipidaemia and physical inactivity. More than 7.7 per cent of the region’s adult population is living with Diabetes, and the percentage of Diabetes patients in the oil-rich Persian Gulf states exceeds the regional average.

Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt  have the world’s highest Diabetes prevalence rates. In a population of more than 350 million in MENA, there are now 26.6 million Diabetes patients and their number is set to almost double to 51.7 million by 2030. The socio-economic impact of the disease has made regional governments to seek solutions to control this pandemic.

Denmark’s Novo Nordisk, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of insulin treatments for Diabetes, is proactively reaching out to the people and governments in MENA to prevent and control the spread of Diabetes. Novo Nordisk has undertaken a wide range of initiatives across the region to create public awareness, provide training to medical staff, as well promote research that could lead to the development of reliable solutions to treat a rising number of Diabetes patients.

“We are investing in long-term education, prevention, awareness, advocacy, screening, research and development, and manufacturing to tackle the diabetes pandemic in MENA. We have a global leadership in the Diabetes care business and one out of two people with diabetes around the world take Novo Nordisk insulin. We have a strong presence in MENA and a high potential for growth,” says Mads Bo Larsen, Novo Nordisk’s Vice President for the MENA region.

Novo Nordisk has its headquarters in Copenhagen and is owned by Novo, an unlisted company owned by the Novo Nordisk Foundation. Novo Nordisk’s B shares are listed on NASDAQ OMX Copenhagen (Novo-B), and its ADRs are listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NVO). It has manufacturing facilities in seven countries, employs more than 31,000 people in 74 countries, and markets its products in 179 countries. For the first six months of 2011, the company reported a profit of DKK 10.68 billion ($1.87 billion), up 13 per cent from the corresponding period in 2010.

“Novo Nordisk operates virtually in all MENA countries through subsidiaries or local business partners. Majority of our business is done by exports from our manufacturing plants to the MENA countries, while in Algeria we have local manufacturing capabilities. We expect MENA to be the continuous growth driver for our overall business. Algeria followed by Saudi Arabia are the biggest markets for Novo Nordisk in MENA,” says Larsen.

Novo Nordisk has been actively operating and investing in MENA for several decades. In December 2010, the company sponsored ‘The Changing Diabetes Leadership Forum’ held in Dubai from 12-13th December. It has been running Steno Diabetes courses for healthcare professionals including nurses, and a STAR programme for Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan and Syria. It has also supported the establishment of the National Diabetes Center (NDC) in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which runs courses for physicians, nurses and pharmacists.

In Algeria, the largest market for Novo Nordisk in MENA, the company has established mobile units for screening diabetes and training nurses on diagnosis methods. As part of its ‘Changing Diabetes Bus World Tour’   which aimed at raising global diabetes awareness, supporting the adoption and then implementation of the UN Resolution on Diabetes – the bus visited Lebanon, Libya, Algeria, Jordan, Iran, UAE and Saudi Arabia.

“We are multiplying our human resources in the region to match the expanding burden of Diabetes. We also try to bring and launch all our latest treatments faster to the region. We are committed to strengthening and expanding our operations across the region and consolidating our manufacturing capabilities in Algeria. We will be open for investing directly or indirectly when the business needs demand the establishment of manufacturing facilities in other MENA countries,” says Larsen (