Novo Nordisk has decided to drop its veteran insulin product Mixtard 30, which first hit the market over a quarter of a century ago, with plans to discontinue sales of the product at the end of the year.

Explaining its decision, the company said that over the last six years the use of Mixtard 30 in the UK and Ireland has been on a steady decline, and that resources could be put to better use by focusing on the development of the next generation of insulins instead.

More than 2.6 million people have diabetes in the UK alone and its prevalence is rocketing. Diabetes and its complications - such as blindness, kidney failure and cardiovascular disease - already cost the National Health Service more than £9 billion a year, highlighting the urgent need for novel treatments and approaches to managing the illness.

“We must continue to make progress in the fight against the diabetes pandemic,” stressed Viggo Birch, managing director of Novo Nordisk Ltd. “Modern treatments are needed to improve care for people with diabetes and it is vital that we continue to invest in researching new therapies,” he said, justifying the company’s move.

But Douglas Smallwood, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said he is disappointed with the decision, which he claims is not in the best interests of people with diabetes. “We think this is wrong and asked Novo Nordisk to reconsider their decision, considering the 90,000 or so people currently using Mixtard 30, but they argued they are committed to withdrawing all older types of human insulin over time,” he noted.