Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk has posted a 24% increase in operating profit for 2006 to 2.33 billion kroner (around $425 million), with sales climbing 10% to 9.82 billion kroner.

Growth was driven by Novo's diabetes division, where turnover rose 10% to 7.14 billion kroner, with the firm's stable of insulin analogue products making up 6.62 billion kroner of the total, an increase of 10% on the year before.

Among the major products in Novo's biopharmaceuticals business, sales of which also climbed 10% to 2.68 billion kroner, NovoSeven (recombinant Factor VIIa) was up 12% to 1.41 billion kroner, while growth hormone product sales, including Norditropin, went up 11% to 784 million kroner, helped by the success of the firm's new patient-friendly NordiFlex delivery device.

The results were above analysts’ expectations but Novo’s earnings have been hit hard by the “significant depreciation of key invoicing currencies” versus the Danish kroner, so chief executive Lars Rebien Sorensen was particularly pleased with the results. He added that the US modern insulin market is driving growth and this trend will continue, helped by an expanded sales force “which will be in the field by the end of the second quarter."

Opens huge insulin plant in Brazil

Meantime Novo said it has taken a major step toward expanding operations in Latin America with a new production facility in Brazil. The firm has inaugurated the plant in Monte Claros which with a $200 million price tag, “is the most costly single investment in Brazil's sizeable pharmaceutical industry,” it claimed.