When cash-strapped Greece last year told Danish drug maker Novo Nordisk A/S it planned to cut the prices it paid for certain insulins by more than a quarter in an effort to slash its spending, Lars Rebien Sorensen, the company's chief executive, responded by halting deliveries of the products.
The cut-off lasted a few weeks, until Greece agreed to less-hefty price reductions. Novo Nordisk continued supplying lower-cost insulin to the country throughout, and says the insulin it stopped shipping was never in short supply because Greek pharmacies had reserves.
Lars Rebien Sorensen, chief executive of Novo Nordisk, at the company's headquarters in Bagsvaerd, Denmark.
But the decision didn't endear Mr. Sorensen to Greeks or pharmaceutical-industry watchers, who blasted the company on blogs and diabetes-themed Web sites, calling the move "brutal blackmail" and a "violation of corporate social responsibility." Some Novo Nordisk employees also raised concerns, Mr. Sorensen said during a weekend interview in London. Like many companies in Scandinavia, Novo Nordisk says it has a strong commitment to ethics. "How can this be patient-oriented?" he recalls some of his employees asking of the Greek situation.