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Novo Nordisk to invest up to $3.7 billion on diabetes pills

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Novo Nordisk plans to invest up to 20 billion Danish crowns ($3.65 billion) on developing diabetes tablets intended to replace traditional insulin injections, it said on Monday.

The Danish company said it planned to spend the money through to 2020 on six diabetes pills it has under development and that the sum included potential production facilities.

It estimates the global market for diabetes tablets could be worth more than 100 billion crowns a year from the beginning of the next decade, a spokesperson said, confirming a report in the Danish business newspaper Borsen.

In the conventional treatment, insulin has to be injected into the bloodstream, something that scares off many potential users in the early stages of diabetes.

The challenge for the tablet technology is to get the insulin through gastric acid and into the bloodstream.

Novo Nordisk, the world's largest insulin producer, aims to develop both an insulin and a so-called GLP-1 agonist in tablet form. The company has around 500 employees working on the development of the tablets, the spokesperson said.

It will spend around 1 billion crowns on the projects this year, with investment increasing towards possible product launches early next decade.

At 1235 GMT, Novo Nordisk shares were flat at 913.5 crowns.

(Reporting by Copenhagen Newsroom; Editing by Mark Potter)

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