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Novo Nordisk to discontinue Levemir insulin in U.S. market

FILE PHOTO: Novo Nordisk logo above the entrance to their offices in Copenhagen

(Reuters) - Novo Nordisk said on Wednesday it would discontinue its long-acting insulin Levemir in the United States, citing manufacturing constraints, reduced patient access and available alternatives.

The Danish drugmaker said supply disruptions would start in mid-January, followed by discontinuation of the Levemir injection pen in April and of Levemir vials by the end of 2024.

Novo has another long-acting insulin, Tresiba, on the market.

"Novo Nordisk will phase out, then permanently discontinue Levemir in the U.S. on December 31, 2024," the company said in a statement. It cited "global manufacturing constraints, significant formulary losses impacting patient access effective in January 2024, and the availability of alternative options in the U.S. market" as key factors in the decision.

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The announcement comes eight months after Novo said it would cut U.S. list prices for several of its insulin products next year, including a 65% reduction in the list price of Levemir, in response to mounting political pressure over insulin prices. The announcement followed a similar one by Eli Lilly.

Basal insulin such as Levemir is a type of long-acting insulin injected once or twice a day as opposed to rapid, short, or intermediate-acting insulin. It is often used by people with Type 1 diabetes and sometimes by people with Type 2.

Novo's Tresiba is also a basal insulin.

Novo, which overtook LVMH as Europe's most valuable listed company this year, posted record operating profit for the third quarter, with sales of its obesity drug Wegovy reaching $1.36 billion, up 28% from the previous quarter.

The company has been a primary beneficiary of the global boom in obesity drugs, as has its competitor Eli Lilly, which received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday for its own weight loss drug.

Around 8.4 million of the 37 million people in the United States with diabetes use insulin, according to the American Diabetes Association.

(Reporting by Maggie Fick in London; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Leslie Adler)