Novo Nordisk in Iran: An Investigation

by Zamaneh Media / 23 September 2020

Novo Nordisk Pars is the third biggest Pharmaceutical importer in Iran in terms of turnover and one of the six Pharma companies that receive the highest amount of subsidized foreign currency from Iranian government. Zamaneh and the Danish media Danwatch have investigated Novo’s dealings in Iran to see whether ethical standards are being challenged.

Novo Nordisk meets Iranian officials in Tehran, 2015 — Photo: Hamid Salehi, IRNA

This report is based on an extensive research into thousands of Persian, English and Danish language media reports, annual reports, local and international business registries, statistics, research reports, social media sites, satellite imagery as well as interviews with dozens of experts inside and outside Iran, present and former employees at Novo Nordisk, local diabetes organisations, international NGO’s, diabetes patients in Iran and of course Novo Nordisk.

Zamaneh will present this investigation in the following five pieces.

What is the Danish Pharmaceutical Company hiding in Iran?

— Mahtab Dehghan

The Danish pharmaceutical giant, Novo Nordisk, says that it has been operating in Iran since 2005 based on its “responsibility and commitment to patients with chronic diseases”. ‌But business experts and former employees say that Novo’s close collaboration with a company controlled by Khamenei’s office cracks the image of a responsible and committed pharmaceutical giant. Zamaneh went searching for the pieces of the puzzle to highlight the darker side of Novo’s business in Iran, about which the company prefers to stay silent.

Novo is Exploiting the Sweet Tooth of Tehran

— Mahtab Dehgan and Charlotte Aagaard

Novo is charging Iran twice as much as the UK for its advanced insulin products according to studies and more than five times the production cost. International organisations and experts are accusing Novo of unethical profiteering in a country marred by sanctions and widespread poverty. Iran as well as patients are under increasing pressure.

European attempt to facilitate trading with Tehran has landed between a rock and a hard place

— Mahtab Dehgan and Charlotte Aagaard

Europe’s attempt to circumvent US sanctions has been a complete failure, according to experts and business organizations. Neither businesses or governments dare challenge the US, they say.

Iran, backed by China, is aiming for insulin independence

— Mahtab Dehgan and Charlotte Aagaard

Iran has succeeded in producing analog insulin pens, called Basalin. Officials claim that in the near future there will be no shortages in the Iranian pharma market, despite being hit by US sanctions. According to the CEO of Iran’s Diabetes Society, however, Iran’s new insulin is insufficiently tested, and experts are worried that the Iranian government might have sacrificed quality for “self-sufficiency”.

Khamenei’s Office finds a way to circumvent US sanctions

— Mahtab Dehgan and Charlotte Aagaard

In 2019, a secretly quiet company, named Karandish Doran Moaser and seemingly not related to Setad, took over major shares of Barkat. However, according to the investigation carried out by Zamaneh and the Danish media Danwatch, the new shareholder is a shell company and, in fact, itself belongs to Khamenei’s Office. Karandish is not included in the list of US sanctions, an apparent advantage for Barkat.



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Zamaneh Media

Zamaneh Media

‏Zamaneh Media is a Persian language media organization based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. READ MORE: