In an effort to help lower its budget problems, Greece told drugmakers it was slashing prices of drugs, take it or leave it. Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO) chose "leave it." The drugmaker isn't going to sell some of its modern insulin products for a discount.

Leaving revenue on the table is a gutsy move in the competitive drug space; privately held specialty drugmaker LEO Pharma said it would stop selling some of its products in Greece, but GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) and AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) have both said they have no plans to pull out of Greece.

Even if it loses sales to Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) and sanofi-aventis (NYSE: SNY), which both sell modern insulins, refusing to sell at a discount may be the best move in the long run for the company. Countries price-shop just like consumers do, and knowing that drugmakers are willing to sell at a discount may cause other countries to demand lower prices as well.

Even if drugmakers are able to keep prices stable in other countries, importers can effectively lower the price in those countries because they'll import drugs from Greece into countries with higher prices. Drugmakers can compensate somewhat by limiting the amount of drugs that are sold to Greek wholesalers, but it's not a perfect system.

While drugmakers may be best off financially by pulling some or all of their drugs out of Greece, they're also in a sticky situation since they provide life-saving medicine. If a defense contractor refuses to sell to a country because it won't pay top dollar for an airplane, no one is going to complain much. But if patients aren't able to refill their prescriptions, there's sure to be outrage.

The only question is whether the patients take it out on the drugmakers or on the government. Novo Nordisk has probably seen the video on the news and seems to be betting on the latter.

Ivan Martchev likes one of the PIIGS, but it isn't Greece.

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Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool owns shares of GlaxoSmithKline and has a disclosure policy.