China Suffers as Diabetes Epidemic Spreads East: CEO

The worsening diabetes epidemic, usually associated with Western nations, is causing widespread health problems in China as the Asian nation continues to enjoy strong economic growth, Novo NordiskPresident & CEO Lars Sorensen, told CNBC Monday.

"China is struggling significantly with increasing rates of diabetes, and in fact recent estimates indicate all the way up to almost 100 million people are exposed to diabetes in China," Sorensen said.

The comments come as producers of diabetes drugsgathered in Orlando for a yearly conference on the disorder.

The Danish pharmaceutical company hopes to benefit from its recently approved treatment for type 2 diabetes, Victoza. The treatment is already available in the U.S. and Europe and will be launched in China in the second-half of the year, according to Sorensen.

Victoza is a human hormone, lacking in people with type 2 diabetes, which stimulates the body to produce insulin after eating. The treatment involves a once-daily injection that controls the blood stream and helps the patient to reduce weight, Sorensen said. Victoza is the most powerful treatment for type 2 diabetes, he added.

It "can help people with type 2 diabetes for a number of years until they need to progress to even more powerful medication such as insulin itself," he said.

The world's largest maker of insulin is up against tough competition from the likes of Merck, which has a rival drug, Januvia.

Novo Nordisk claimed Saturday, citing a recent study, that Victoza was able to cut patients' weight and blood sugar levels more effectively than Januvia.

Many of the potential users of the treatment in China may not be able to gain access to it, however, because of its price tag, Sorensen admitted.

"These are also very innovative products hence they may have a price tag that prevent some individuals using it at least initially," he said, speaking from Copenhagen.