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Novo Nordisk rapped by advertising regulator after £7.8m irregular payments

The pharmaceutical giant admitted failing to disclose the payments from 2020-2022 which had been “incorrectly categorised in finance systems as a result of human error”.

Novo Nordisk has been rapped by the advertising regulator after failing to disclose payments of £7.8m in its UK business.

The Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) “publicly reprimanded” Novo Nordisk last week (July 5) after the pharmaceutical giant voluntarily admitted to approximately 500 undisclosed payments between 2020-2022 after an internal investigation.

A Novo Nordisk spokesperson said the payments, which involved over 150 different vendors, were not disclosed appropriately because they had been “incorrectly categorised in finance systems as a result of human error”.

Read more: 'Severe violations' of advertising codes over weight loss jabs

The payments accounted between 10-14% of each year’s total payments for Novo Nordisk, which manufactures high profile weight loss jabsWegovy and Ozempic.

In the statement by the PMCPA, which administers the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Code of Practice for the pharmaceutical industry, they said their Appeal Board “considered the scale of the undisclosed value identified thus far, over a sustained period, was extremely serious” and were worried about “fundamental governance failures” including inadequate training, processes and monitoring.

 

Internal

 

Novo Nordisk’s internal investigation into the undisclosed payments came after the PMCPA received a complaint in March 2023 after media articles suggested the pharmaceutical giant had paid healthcare organisations and experts in the UK to endorse Wegovy.

Read more: Wegovy woes: Nothing feels as good as big fat skinny profits

This led to Novo Nordisk being suspended as a member of the ABPI for two years due to “serious breaches of the ABPI Code of Practice” as they breached clauses that brought “discredit on, or reduce confidence in, the pharmaceutical industry”.

In a statement, a Novo Nordisk spokesperson said: “these payments are for legitimate activities” but it accepted “the PMCPA’s decision to rule the relevant breaches of the two Codes of Practice”.

It also said it is: “committed to working transparently and ethically” and took these failings “extremely seriously” and have since “put mitigating actions in place to future-proof how we track, tag, and disclose payments … to ensure we have robust systems and processes in place”.

Read more: ‘It terrifies me’: Girl landed in A&E after buying Wegovy from Boots

Novo Nordisk will undertake a re-audit in October 2024 which the ABPI’s Appeal Board hope will “evaluate the company’s current processes” on how it submits payments on their records.

Novo Nordisk’s spokesperson said it will “continue to strengthen our compliance framework in the UK and remain committed to following the ABPI Code of Practice and maintaining the highest possible ethical standards” and confirmed it has resubmitted the undisclosed payments accurately to Disclosure UK.

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