* Q3 sales up 2% at 30.9 billion Danish crowns
* Operating profit down 1% to 12.8 billion crowns
* Company sees FY operating profit up between 1% and 4% (Adds CEO quote, detail on diabetics starting treatment)
COPENHAGEN, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Drugmaker Novo Nordisk has seen a gradual recovery in the number of diabetics starting treatment, it said on Friday after reporting 2% sales growth in the third quarter.
Many patients had postponed doctor visits earlier in the year due to coronavirus lockdown measures, but Novo Nordisk had said earlier this month that the negative impact from COVID-19 had been smaller than expected, prompting it to raise its full-year guidance.
Sales are still feeling the effects of patient stockpiling at the start of the coronavirus crisis, but the Copenhagen-based company, the world’s biggest manufacturer of diabetes drugs, said sales growth had been driven by higher demand for its innovative GLP-1 drugs, which imitate an intestinal hormone that stimulates production of insulin.
“Many more patients are coming into that market and getting the benefits of GLP-1 treatment,” Chief Executive Lars Fruergaard said on a conference call with journalists.
The company, which on Friday retained its full-year outlook, hopes to gradually replace its U.S. insulin business with the new GLP-1 diabetes drugs.
Fruergaard said that while fewer diabetics had initiated drug treatment this year, a “gradual recovery” had taken place during the third quarter.
“We assume that will continue into the fourth quarter, but the guidance range reflects that we live in very volatile times. We don’t know how the winter season will evolve,” he said.
The company expects full-year operating profit to grow by between 1% and 4% and sales to grow between 2% and 5%.
Quarterly sales reached 30.9 billion Danish crowns ($4.9 billion), while operating profit declined 1% to 12.8 billion crowns, both in line with third-quarter figures published this month.
$1 = 6.2952 Danish crowns Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen Additional reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard Editing by David Goodman and David Holmes