Novo Nordisk to boost pill-form diabetic drugs with $1.8 billion deal

© Reuters.

By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Nikolaj Skydsgaard

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Diabetes drug maker Novo Nordisk said on Friday it had agreed a $1.8 billion (1.3 billion pounds) deal to acquire Emisphere Technologies, giving it control of a pill technology that it hopes will broaden sales to diabetics with an aversion to shots.

The acquisition comes as Novo’s (CO:) new diabetes pill, Rybelsus – its first-of-a-kind, non-injectable treatment – has been approved by regulators in the United States, Europe and several Asian countries.

The world’s biggest producer of diabetes drugs aims to offer more of its current and future drugs in a tablet form.

“I don’t think we will ever completely get rid of the needles,” Chief Scientific Officer Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen said in an interview.

“We have been making injection drugs for a hundred years, but we just have to admit that if we want patients to get treatment quickly in order to optimise the long-term course of the illness, then it requires tablets if possible,” he said.

Under the deal, Novo will buy all outstanding shares in U.S.-based Emisphere for $1.35 billion, while also taking over royalty obligations to the firm’s biggest shareholder worth $450 million

Novo said it will make “substantial investments” into the platform and already has around one hundred scientists at its Copenhagen-headquarters working on improving the tablet technology.

“By further developing the technology, we hope in the future to produce the medicine cheaper than we do now, thus allowing us to penetrate more markets and give broader access to diabetes drugs,” Thomsen said.

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