Pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk has been criticized by the UK self-regulatory watchdog for failing to disclose its sponsorship of obesity and weight management training courses.

The training courses, which were held online, included information about Novo’s weight loss drug, Saxenda.

While there was no official sponsorship visible, the activity was seen as a “disguised” promotional campaign by the self-regulatory watchdog.

Thousands of healthcare professionals viewed the webinars, run by a third-party provider, which favoured Novo’s drug Saxenda.

The webinars included side effects of other weight loss drugs competing with Saxenda, but failed to talk about the potential side effects of the Novo drug.

Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen, the CEO of Novo Nordisk, apologised for the company’s actions and acknowledged that the lack of branding on the LinkedIn post promoting the courses could have led people to draw the wrong conclusions.

Jorgensen commented that failure to disclose sponsorship was a “mistake”.

“It should have said that it was sponsored by Novo and it did not. And that of course, could make people draw the wrong conclusions” Jorgensen reportedly told the Financial Times.

The self-regulatory body published a reprimand last year, stating its concern about Novo Nordisk’s compliance culture, internal governance systems, and lack of accountability.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) is now assessing Novo Nordisk to determine any future action.

Pinder Sahota, the former general manager of Novo Nordisk UK, stood aside from his job as president of the ABPI, to avoid any distractions from the group’s “important work”.

According to the UK industry code, financial penalties for infringing the code can be as little as £4,000.

However, Novo Nordisk’s suspension from the ABPI would be a rare public censure.

According to Sidney Wolfe, founder of the health research organisation Public Citizen, pharmaceutical firms have a long history of undertaking covert marketing initiatives under the pretence of teaching.

Wolfe commented “Unfortunately, because the penalties for engaging in such behaviour are rarely a deterrent for companies, these potentially illegal but profitable activities will continue to be part of companies’ business model without larger penalties and successful prosecutions of company executives”.

Novo Nordisk is soon to launch its weight loss drug, Wegovy at chemists in the UK.

Get our free newsletters

Stay up to date with the latest news, research and breakthroughs.

You May Also Like

Coronavirus: UK instructed to stay at home this weekend

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that staying at home this weekend…

Top diabetes professor drafts risk assessment document for frontline COVID-19 staff

The health and wellbeing of frontline NHS staff has been prioritised among…

Conversation about doctors’ appointments occurring virtually rumbles on

More than half of GP appointments are still being delivered remotely in…