Novo Nordisk A/S (ADR) (NVO): Three Shocking Numbers on Diabetes’ Grim Future

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Diabetes is one of the world’s most dangerous and fastest-growing afflictions. According to the International Diabetes Federation, 366 million people around the globe suffered from this devastating illness in 2011, and diabetes has cost the U.S. health care system hundreds of billions of dollars annually in recent years. Leading big pharma companies have reaped windfalls by developing drugs to treat this epidemic, but treatment and public awareness haven’t slowed down its advance across the globe.

The future could be even more menacing — but for investors, taking advantage of these global health trends now could bring in a huge reward in the long term. Let’s take a look at three eye-opening statistics concerning diabetes’ future — and dive into what you can do today to maximize your portfolio’s returns tomorrow.

1. 552 million
552 million is the number of people worldwide that the IDF expects to suffer from diabetes by the year 2030, an increase of more than 50% over 2011′s total.

The huge increase in diabetes has been fueled by a number of factors, from urbanization to changing diets and the rise of sedentary lifestyles. Type 2 diabetes in particular has erupted, representing more than 90% of total diabetes cases.

It’s not just a problem in advanced economies; if anything, diabetes has hit the developing world far harder than it has the earth’s richest nations. According to the IDF, 80% of total diabetes cases across the globe stem from “low- and middle-income countries,” many outside of Europe and North America. Asia has become a hotbed of the disease with some of the most populous countries in the world experiencing massive booms in both middle class populations and urbanization.

Those trends have turned several leading emerging markets — including China, India, and Indonesia — into tomorrow’s hardest-hit diabetes markets.

2. 129.7 million
The IDF expects 129.7 million Chinese citizens between the ages of 20 and 79 to have diabetes by the year 2030, more than 20% of the global total. The organization expects India to have another 101.2 million diabetic citizens by that year, and the two countries far outstrip the United States’ projections of just 29.6 million diabetes patients by that year.

Already in the present China has emerged as a hotspot for diabetes. Pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk A/S (ADR) (NYSE:NVO) estimated the total Chinese market at more than 93 million patients last year. Novo has capitalized by taking a dominant share of that growing diabetes market, carving out a 37% market share last year and growing its Chinese sales by 28%. That hasn’t helped Novo’s stock recently, but this Danish pharmaceutical maker has emerged as a major player in the future of treating diabetes abroad.

India’s growth also has captured the attention of leading big pharma firms. Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) has struggled with falling sales lately, but it has taken full advantage of diabetes’ growth. The company’s lead diabetes drugs, Januvia and Janumet, posted more than $5.6 billion in sales last year and have made inroads into India’s sizable market, as well as Brazil, China, and other developing nations. Merck has had to fight off copycat drugs in India with the nation’s shaky patent law framework, but if the company can expand its foothold in growing diabetes hotbeds like China and India, Merck will ride this troubling trend to big sales abroad.

3. $58 billion
$58 billion is how large Standard & Poor’s last year estimated that the diabetes market worldwide would grow to by 2018. That’s an increase of more than 65% over 2012′s global diabetes market, which stood at $35 billion. By a comparison, that’s larger than the economies of almost 100 nations.

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